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Tea and Memories at the Cutty Sark

Tea & Memories at Cutty SarkNext week marks the arrival of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and to honour this momentous occasion we are hosting an extra special tea party at the Cutty Sark on 10th December 2014 to mark the ship’s arrival in Greenwich exactly 60 years ago on that day in 1954.

The Cutty Sark has had an interesting and varied history, as the ‘fastest and greatest tea clipper of her day’; she was built specifically to serve the China Tea Trade and loaded her cargo at Shanghai and Hankou. She made a total of eight voyages from China to London with tea during 1870-1877, usually loading over 600,000 kg (1.3 million lbs) of tea on each of her tea voyages back from China, now that’s enough tea to make over 200,000,000 cups! Thereafter she served the Australian wool trade for 12 years, in 1895 she was sold to a Portuguese shipping company, she came back to England in 1922 and became the first vessel since the Golden Hinde to be displayed as a museum ship, moored in Falmouth, Cornwall.  Finally, she was brought to Greenwich by the Cutty Sark Preservation Society as ‘an icon of the bygone era of sail and a memorial to the Merchant Navy in 1954’.That’s quite a journey she has undertaken!

The Cutty Sark arriving in Greenwich in 1954

The Cutty Sark arriving in Greenwich in 1954


The Cutty Sark are inviting you to share your memories of the ship via afternoon tea, bespoke parlour games and lively conversation as we explore what Cutty Sark means to Greenwich and why this ship is worth preserving.  We will be capturing memories of the ship’s presence in Greenwich over the last 60 years. The event is free, but booking is required and conversations will be recorded, to find out more visit the events page.

If you can’t make the event but still have memories to share, you can join in on the Cutty Sark Facebook page or on Twitter @CuttySark using the hashtag #CuttySark60.

Our War Tea Parties at Valentines Mansion

Our War Tea Parties

In September to mark the centenary of the First World War we are working with Eastside Community Heritage to bring to you a series of free pop-up tea parties themed to the ‘Great War’ at Valentines Mansion.  The ‘Our War Tea Parties’ will explore tea drinking habits which fortified troops during the War. Guests will be encouraged to share family stories they may have about the war and can bring any mementoes, although this is not essential. Here are details:

English Tea Party

Sunday 14th September

11am and 2pm (each sitting lasts around 90 minutes)

Indian Tea Party

Sunday 28th September

11am and 2pm (each sitting lasts around 90 minutes)

Booking is essential, places very limited. Contact 0208 5533116 or email for bookings.

‘Eco’ Tea Party in East London

On Friday 15th August 2014 we hosted an ‘Eco’ inspired tea party as part of the project ‘From the Roots’ with Squared Root, an organisation that helps communities to build a more sustainable future. The project worked with 15 teenage girls from East London exploring issues around sustainability in a fun and creative programme of activities including a bespoke tea party with eco-inspired parlour games.

Using our bespoke parlour games, the participants were able to explore sustainability, looking at and investigating climate change, recycling and how to make small behavioural changes to benefit the environment we live in. At the end of the tea party each individual made a pledge that they would commit to, to add to our ‘Teapot of Pledges’. We had some simple pledges like;

‘Walking or cycling to school’ 

‘Turning lights off if leaving a room for a few minutes’

‘Turning the tap off whilst brushing teeth, instead of leaving it running’

‘Recycling glass, cans and paper’

All of these can contribute to the sustainability of our environment, and we were really impressed with the girls’ ideas.

The girls even got to try a spot of herbal tea making, sampling and mixing up a concoction of herbs to create their very own herbal teas during the tea party, chocolate mint seemed to go down a treat!  We had a fabulous time designing and hosting this eco-friendly experience and hope to do it again soon!

Here are some photos from the day:

(c) Sadia’s Tea Party


Sadia’s Persian Tea Party

Sadia's Persian Tea Party

Sunday 23rd March, 2pm

Tea found its way to Persia (now Iran) from India and soon became the national drink; some even say it’s the national pastime in Iran! To mark Nowruz; the Iranian New Year why not experience how tea is enjoyed in Iran with artist and tea hostess Sadia Ur-Rehman in this unique pop-up tea party that takes you on an extraordinary voyage to Central Asia.

Tickets are £18 per person.

Pre-booking is essential, to book your ticket, call Valentines Mansion on 020 8708 8100. Tickets are limited and will be on a first come – first served basis, so don’t miss out!

Around the World in Tea: Tunisia

I’ve just returned from holidaying in Tunisia and in time to share my experiences of tea for this month’s blog post. I had a glorious time exploring the Tunisian landscape, and of course drinking lots and lots of tea! We drunk tea in the capital; Tunis, by the sea in Hammamet, in Nabeul the ceramic central of the country and more tea drinking took place in the holy city of Karaouan. All absolutely glorious and providing a new experience in each place.

One of the international tea parties that we offer is the ‘North African Tea Party’ and this tea party serves traditional ‘Maghrebi’ mint tea as drunk in the ‘Maghreb’, this defines the region of Northwest Africa made up of the following countries; Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania. The ‘Maghrebi’ tea culture has spread throughout North Africa including Egypt and Sudan and southern Spain. ‘Maghrebi’ style mint tea, borne in Morocco, we found occupies an important part of the Tunisian day.

Maghrebi – style mint tea is green tea (gunpowder tea) served with mint leaves and copious amounts of sugar! Served not only a meal times but throughout the day, it is a drink of hospitality, impolite to refuse, this continues throughout North Africa.

My favourite glass of tea had to be the one drunk in Hammamet by the sea. It was remarkable drinking the sugary concoction that is Maghrebi style mint tea as we watched the tides crash in, scented with jasmine and sea breezes. Glorious, absolutely glorious.

Here’s our recipe for you all to experience tea the Tunisian way.

Making Tea the Maghrebi Way

The customary green tea used is a gunpowder tea imported from China, I brought some back from Tunisia however it is widely available in England. Here is how you can make a pot of tea the Maghrebi way.

½ litre of water
2 tsp gunpowder tea
5 tsp sugar
Handful of fresh mint leaves

Maghrebi mint tea ingredients

1. In a teapot, combine two teaspoons of tea-leaf with half a litre of boiling water. Allow it too steep for at least ten minutes.

Add 1/2 litre of boiling water to tea leaves
2. Filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot, so that the tea leaves and coarse powder are removed.

Filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot
3. Add sugar (about one teaspoon per 100 ml).
4. Bring to boil over a medium heat.

4.	Bring to boil over a medium heat
5. As desired, add fresh mint leaves either to the teapot or directly to the cup.

Maghrebi mint tea
There you have it folks, enjoy! Serve with makroudh, a pastry filled with dates that I brought back from Tunisia or the more widely available baklawa. And please do come back next month when we feature another tea from a different part of the world.

Around the World in Tea: Elaichi Chai in Pakistan

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ is another homage to my roots and an ode to a tea that I have been drinking since I was very young. I have wonderful early memories of starting my day with my mother making a pot of elaichi chai (cardamom tea) for the family to drink over breakfast, it was the perfect start to the day, and I continue this custom today, with my first cup of tea, also my favourite, enabling me to prepare myself for the day and whatever lies ahead.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 1

Elaichi Chai is drunk throughout Pakistan; tea drinking in Pakistan has become an important part of everyday life and has become embedded in the culture and social life there. The times that I have visited my parents’ home town in Pakistan, tea has played a pivotal role and epitomises the hospitality that guests receive, when visiting guests expect a cup of tea as a minimum. If you’re lucky enough to visit a Pakistani bazaar (market) you’ll notice that the shopkeepers drink tea on tap, quite literally!

Elachi Chai in Pakistan

A view of a tea shop in Karachi. Photo: Jalal Qureshi/ Express

Black tea in Pakistan was initially introduced during the colonial British era in South Asia. Cities like Lahore had a very vivid tea culture, the beverage quite quickly absorbed into local culture and the home. Today tea is consumed throughout the day, at breakfast, during lunch breaks, in the afternoon after lunch, and in the evening at home.

Pakistan tea culture is rich and diverse with various regions of the country having their own assortment of flavours and varieties. In Karachi, Elaichi Chai is popular, whilst Doodh Pati Chai (a very thick and milky version) is preferred in the Punjab. Varieties of sweet biscuits accompany and are enjoyed with tea. In northern Pakistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region they enjoy a green tea called ‘kahwah’. And finally in Kashmir, a ‘pink’ Kashmiri chai is enjoyed that is a wonderful concoction of pink, milky tea with pistachio and cardamoms. I’d love to share the recipes for these teas with you all over time on this blog.

Sadia’s Elaichi Chai

Serves 4


3 cups of water
1 cup of milk
10-12 green cardamom pods
4 tsp sugar
4 heaped tsp of your favourite loose leaf tea


Step 1. Bring water to boil in a stainless steel or non-stick pot.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 2

Step 2. Split the cardamom pods and add to the boiling water.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 3

Step 3. Add the tea leaves and sugar and simmer for a minute.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 4

Step 4. Add milk and boil till the tea is a creamy caramel colour.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 5

Step 5. Remove from the flame and pour into teacups, ensure you use a tea strainer to catch the tea leaves and cardamom.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 6

Voila and serve with biscuits, I love a particular variety of almond and pistachio biscuits that you can purchase from most good South Asian shops in London.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 7

Off to Tottenham for Tea

Did you know that internationally renowned singer-songwriter Adele was born in Tottenham? Or that South Tottenham is reported to be the most ethnically-diverse area in Europe, with 300 languages being spoken by its residents? These are two of the facts that featured in our Tottenham Quiz that was one of the bespoke games guests played at our ‘Tottenham Tea Party’.

On Saturday 30th November we took over a former Caribbean food takeaway on Broad Lane, Tottenham.  As part of the Living Archive project by arts organisation Make-Room, we were asked to host a special Tottenham inspired tea party in their temporary pop-up space.

Make-Room: The Living Archive

Adorning the space in bunting and floral brightness, we met some really interesting folk who shared their stories, experiences and memories of Tottenham whilst playing our games and supping on tea and eating Tottenham cake. Here are some snaps from the day:

Photo credits: Jenni Grove

Tea & Community Dialogues at Kew Gardens

Earlier this year we worked on a really interesting community engagement project at Kew Gardens using our tea parties as way to engage new audiences at Kew.  The project ‘Community Dialogues’ aimed to engage and bring together groups of different, diverse cultural backgrounds to creatively explore and exchange dialogues on edible plants at Kew. The origins of a series of edible plants were explored, how they are used in cooking and in particular specific stories shared and captured all of course over a good cuppa tea!

We worked with five community organisations in a series of workshops in the format of a ‘pop up tea salon’ to explore edible plants in both the Temperate House and Palm House. The structure of the project enabled us to meet the group first, running an initial workshop on ‘Edible plants’ and getting participants to think about how they use edible plants in their day to day lives. The next time we met the groups was for a tour of both the Temperate and Palm houses, exploring edible plants that lived at Kew and then onto tea at our bespoke tea parties themed to a series of edible plants including tea, chilli peppers, sugar cane, date palm to name a few.

The project was a lovely opportunity to meet and work with some really interesting groups, enabling them to explore their own relationships to a number of diverse edible plants. We learnt about exotic recipes, heard childhood memories and stories of growing up eating these edible plants, and we saw how relationships had grown with these edible plants, for example Harjit Kaur from the Hounslow Senior Trust reminisced about early childhood memories of drinking chai (tea) over breakfast with her family, how it began her day and how this has continued as a custom for her throughout her life. She also shared her recipe for Masala Chai.

The groups involved came from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and from all walks of life. Participants from the Brazilian Educational & Cultural Centre talked of edible plants native to Brazil and other countries in South America, it was fascinating to hear about these plants and how they were eaten, and one only wished we could have had a taste! The ladies from the Al Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre  and the Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre added a new dimension to the tea party that we hosted for them. The tea party, originally a traditional English, became something new after the ladies all from Arabic descent brought along their own traditional food using some of the edible plants we were exploring. It was a lovely addition and very, very yummy! We really enjoyed this cultural mixing of food and language. Lively discussions and lots of story sharing took place at the tea parties, they were a real opportunity to hear an assortment of experiences to the edible plants that we explored during the project.  The project culminated in a short film:

We also created shorter edits of the film for each of the edible plants we explored during the project. You can watch them here.

Around the World in Tea: Kahwah in Afghanistan

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ is a homage to my roots and an ode to a tea that I’ve been drinking since I was a young girl. Kahwah is a traditional green tea preparation consumed in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, some regions of Central Asia and the Kashmir Valley. In Pakistan it is made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, both of my parents were born there.

Tea Shop in Peshawar, Pakistan

The times that I have visited my parents’ home town in Pakistan, tea has played a pivotal role and kahwah was generally served in the afternoon as a refreshing alternative to chai and often after dinner to aid digestion! My parents have continued this custom when they have guests and tend to also serve kahwah after dinner. Kahwah is normally served in small handle-less bowls, much like the Chinese tea bowl with ghur; a lump sugar made from sugar cane. I find it to be a light and aromatic tea that is subtle in flavours.

In London, a number of Afghan restaurants have been popping up and becoming increasingly popular over the last few years. One which I like to go to is Charsi Tikka in Forest Gate the kahwah there is splendid!


How to make Kahwah

Serves 4


4 cups of Water

1 tsp Green tea leaves

3 crushed Green cardamoms

1 tsp of dried lemongrass (optional)

Sugar to taste or ghur


Step 1. Pour water in a vessel.

Step 2. Add crushed green tea leaves, cardamons and lemongrass

Step 3. Bring to boil. As soon as it boils, add sugar to taste. (If using ghur omit the sugar)

Step 4. Cover and boil for a few minutes.

Step 5. Remove from the flame and pour into small bowls.

I hope you enjoy this light and lovely tea folks, in 2014 I plan to develop an ‘Afghan’ inspired tea party.

I thought I’d end this post with a really interesting quote from Greg Mortenson’s book, ‘Three Cups of Tea’ that summarises tea and hospitality in both Afghanistan and northern Pakistan:

‘Here we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die’ – Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan.

Sadia’s Tottenham Tea Party

Did you know that internationally renowned singer-songwriter Adele was born in Tottenham? Or that South Tottenham is reported to be the most ethnically-diverse area in Europe, with 300 languages being spoken by its residents?

The next stop for our pop-up travelling tea parties is Tottenham. As part of the Living Archive project by arts organisation Make-Room, we’ve been asked to host a special Tottenham inspired tea party in their temporary pop-up space which is a former Caribbean food takeaway on Broad Lane.

Make-Room: The Living Archive
We’re looking forward to taking over the former takeaway for a day, decking it out in bunting and hosting our tea party on Saturday 30th November. What an interesting space for a tea party to take place. Guests will join us for afternoon tea, Tottenham inspired treats and themed parlour games including our ‘Tottenham Quiz’ and have an opportunity to share their memories and experiences of the local area and contribute to the wider ‘The Living Archive’ project.

Looking forward to a Tottenham-filled day!