The secret to hosting a perfect royal tea party

August 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The secret to hosting a perfect royal tea party. From cucumber sandwiches to warm scones and clotted cream, a fabulous girlfriend getaway in your own home. Author Rhys Bowen features many tea parties in her latest book "A Royal Pain (A Royal Spyness Mystery)." In fact, she has actually sat down for tea with the Queen of England. Rhys shares the key to a proper party.

Royal tea party

The perfect afternoon tea should include cucumber, tomato or watercress sandwiches, thin brown bread, or fruit bread, buttered; scones with clotted cream and jam, Victoria sponge, assorted little cakes and biscuits (preferably homemade) and of course a pot of tea.

Tea is always loose leaf, good quality. It can be Indian or Chinese. Darjeeling is a personal favorite and is served with milk. Chinese teas are lighter and scented or smoky in flavor. They are always served with lemon. Earl Grey is a black tea but flavored with bergamot giving it a unique flavor. Always make tea with boiling water and leave at least three minutes before pouring. Don't allow it to sit and stew.

Buckingham Palace Shortbread.

This is the recipe used to make shortbread for the Queen's tea every day. It has been used at Buckingham Palace for many years. A former chef there is now a chef at a hotel in Toronto, and he has released this recipe to the public.

  • 2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 c. pastry flour
  • 1 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • Superfine sugar for sprinkling

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gently mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until it forms a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 15 minutes, or until firm. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dust dough lightly with flour and roll it out to 3/4-inch thick square on a sheet of parchment paper. Transfer the parchment paper and dough to a baking sheet. Bake in the center of preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with superfine sugar. While still warm, use a paring knife to cut the shortbread into 48 pieces.

The Ritz Scones (Recipe from the Ritz Hotel, London)

  • 1 1/2 c. self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 T. butter or shortening
  • 2/3 c. milk

Lightly butter a baking sheet. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda or baking soda and salt into a bowl together. Rub or cut in the butter, fingertipping the mixture into large flakey crumbs. Stir to a soft dough by mixing in the milk with a knife. Roll out to a thickness of 1/2 inch or just over, and cut into rounds with a pastry-cutter, 2- 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Arrange them on the baking sheet fairly close together. Powder their faces with flour. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees. They will rise and turn golden. They can be served cold, but are excellent while still hot. Of course scones are best when served with strawberry jam and clotted Devonshire or Cornish cream. And don't forget o read Rhys Bowen's new book, A ROYAL PAIN

Buy the book on Amazon: A Royal Pain

About Rhys Bowen:
Rhys Bowen's mysteries have been nominated for every major mystery award, including the Edgar for best novel, and she has won seven of them. She writes three series, including the Constable Evans mysteries, set in the mountains of Wales, and the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring a feisty Irish immigrant woman. Summer 2007 marked the launch of a new and very different series, this one about a minor royal in 1930s England. It has been described as Bridget Jones meets "Charade" as told by Nancy Mitford.

Rhys was born in Bath, England, of a Welsh/English family, and educated at London University. Upon graduation she went to work for the BBC in London, specializing in drama and becoming a studio manager. She also started writing her own radio and TV plays. Needing to escape from the dreary London weather, she accepted an invitation to work for Australian Broadcasting in Sydney. While Down Under she met her future husband John, who was on his way to California. She married and settled in the San Francisco area, where she has lived ever since, raising four children. Finding nothing like the BBC in California, Rhys started writing children's books. Her first picture book was named a NY Times best book of the year. More picture books followed, then Rhys moved to young adult novels, writing many best selling titles. She also wrote some adult historical sagas and some TV tie-ins. When she felt she had exhausted her enthusiasm for writing for teenagers, Rhys decided to write what she likes to read: mysteries with a great feel for time and place. Her childhood memories of her Welsh relatives were the inspiration for her Constable Evans novels. The stories were immediately well received. The second book, Evan Help Us, was called "a jewel of a story" by Publisher's Weekly and nominated for a Barry Award. Evan's Gate received an Edgar nomination. The books are published in several other languages, in large print, book club and in audio form.

Wanting to try her hand at something different and edgier, Rhys conceived Molly Murphy-a brash, fearless Irishwoman who struggles to survive as an immigrant in New York City. The first book in this series, Murphy's Law, won three awards including the Agatha. Every subsequent book has received starred reviews and award nominations. For the Love of Mike won the Anthony Award at the world mystery convention.

In 2007 Rhys decided there was enough darkness in the world and began a new and very different series. It features a minor royal in depression-era London. She's 34th in line to the throne but she is penniless and trying to survive on her own. Not easy for a girl who doesn't even know how to boil water. The first book in the series, Her Royal Spyness, was a resounding success. It reached #1 on the IMBA bestseller list. It was nominated for 4 awards, including the Agatha and Dilys for the book that booksellers most enjoyed selling. A Royal Pain comes out in July 2008.

Rhys also enjoys writing short stories and has achieved much critical acclaim for them. Several of her stories have been Agatha and Anthony nominees. "Doppelganger" won the Anthony award and was included in The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Fifth Annual Collection anthology (2004). More recently, her story "Voodoo," an Anthony nominee, was chosen to be part of Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense-the anthology of the best of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Rhys is a past national board member of MWA. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, play her Celtic harp and entertain her grandchildren.


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