Tea Time In Birmingham, Alabama!

What a special treat it was to be able to attend the Tea Time Magazine Retreat in Birmingham, Alabama. My dear friend, Tamara and I flew into Birmingham for three full days of fun. Lorna Reeves, editor of Tea Time Magazine, had a packed schedule for us. The moment we arrived at our beautiful hotel in downtown Birmingham, we never stopped until we got back on the plane to head back to our homes.

The Elyton Hotel is a quaint boutique hotel with a great restaurant. It used to be a bank many years ago. I loved the elevator that had the arrow that showed the floor it was on and all of the marble everywhere. I spotted a large vault down some stairs but I didn’t venture down there. I love beautiful hotels! My room was very different than what I was used to. The only problem I had were my curtains wouldn’t close all the way. After a very nice man came up to fix them, I was all set.

We had just a few minutes to freshen up and meet on a bus to head to The Club for afternoon tea. The Club was a favorite of Phylis Hoffman DePiano, the founder of Hoffman Media. Hoffman Media publishes several of my favorite magazines. A few months before our retreat, we received the sad news that Phylis had passed away. I was heartsick to hear the news. I had met Phylis several times and she was a very sweet lady and so talented. A few years ago, my mom and I attended a conference with Southern Lady Magazine and we had dinner at Phylis’ home in Birmingham. We were going to do the same thing at this retreat, but since her passing, that didn’t happen. It was bittersweet being there and seeing Hoffman Media offices without her there. After our afternoon tea at The Club, we then returned to our hotel and after a long day, I slept very well needless to say!

Saturday morning we were up early and the hotel has a cute little restaurant that we enjoyed to begin our day. We then boarded our bus and headed to the Hoffman Media Offices which they call, The Hoffice. After a short tour of the offices we went into the test kitchen. This is where I got a wee bit nervous as we were going to go to our little test kitchen area and bake what we watched the chefs of Hoffman Media demonstrate for us. The good news was that my buddy, Tamara, is a chef herself! She owns her own Tea Room and Eatery called Inspirations in Edmond, Oklahoma. If you haven’t been there, you need to go. What fun it was to cook along side Tamara and pretend I knew what I was doing. All I had to do was watch her and do what she does….I noticed she had her hand towel tucked in her apron. Good idea! See, you learn something new all the time!

We made scones, from scratch! Then we made these cute little canap├ęs. Our finale of something really serious was an Orange-Almond Battenburg Cake. I was actually surprised I pulled it off. Okay, maybe Tamara had to unwrap my fondant that was wrapped around my cake in a not so pretty way, but I got it fixed and I was excited to try it! We then broke for a nice luncheon catered by a local restaurant and had a presentation of how they style photos for the magazines. I could have listened to this all day. I love styling photos. We then headed back to the kitchen for another demo and to finish up our baking. At the end of our day, we had tea time and enjoyed our own items that we made for the day. Everything was delicious! Next on the agenda, was to board our bus, go back to our hotel for dinner and rest for the next day. Are we having fun yet? Yes, we are!

A new day and wondering what was in store. I love surprises! We had our breakfast, boarded our bus and headed back to The Hoffice for a Tea Tasting. I have never done a tea tasting before. It was rather serious. We had a tea expert, Bruce Richardson, share everything you would want to know about growing tea, how it’s harvested and where, etc. We then would touch and feel the various types of tea leaves, smell it and sip it and taste all the different flavors in little bowls. I’m not a wine drinker, but it reminded me of seeing people who are serious about their wine. It was all very interesting to me. I was hoping no one noticed that I had no idea what I was doing. The lady next to me, leaned over and said, “you don’t drink much tea, do you?” Busted! I then said, “so, you noticed?” She said, “yes.” Anyway, I learned so much and I now look at tea totally different than I ever have before. I have many flavors of tea at home and I have enjoyed smelling them and seeing if I can pick out the flavors. I’m learning! During a comment time, a lady stood up to tell about her friend who has teas at her home and uses things from Sam’s and bagged tea. I got very still and thought, “oh, no, I’m about to be busted, again!” Anyway, I could have acted aghast, but, I think I was pegged pretty well. She was from up North so I don’t think she was talking about me even though I didn’t know her. I can’t help it if Sam’s makes great croissants and they even have macarons in the frozen food section. Although, I do have a recipe that I’m going to try to make my own macarons. If it works out, I’ll share the details with you someday! Oh, and I’m ordering my own loose leaf tea. See, I’m getting there!

After a presentation on the history of Wedgewood, we enjoyed a nice catered lunch with china that we got to pick and design our own place settings. After lunch we boarded our bus and headed to the Birmingham Museum of Art for a private tour of their Wedgewood collection.

We closed our afternoon and the retreat with an afternoon tea at the Hoover-Randle Home and Garden. It was a beautiful setting and it was a treat to visit with new friends. The retreat was limited to 25 people. With the small size it made it easier to meet and visit with women from across the country who loved Tea Time Magazine and the art of tea!

The next morning Tamara and I flew back to DFW and parted ways to head to our own cities! What a fun memory I will have and I’m now a bit more comfortable in stepping out of the box with my own “Beverly’s Little Tea Room” where I love hostessing teas for friends and family.

If you ever get a chance to attend one of the retreats with Hoffman Media, I would definitely give it a try, even if you are a newbie like me. I love planning, decorating, hostessing and enjoying the treats. The cooking part, I’m still learning, that is for sure! Oh, and if you have a fun friend like my friend, Tamara, you will have even more fun.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

Until next time,

4 Comments

  1. Oh, my goodness, I know that was fun. We were in OKC last week and Bridget, myself and 3 other relatives all went to Inspirations. Tamara was not there but I did ask and told the gal I talked to to tell her that one of Beverly’s friends came to the Tea Room for about my 5th or 6th time. It is such a lovely place and such a treat to go.

    1. Hi Lea! What a fun treat you had. I bet everyone loved their time with you at Inspirations! Maybe she will be there next time you are in town! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall hearing you have so much fun with your family!

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