Thyme for Tea

Tea Parties: August: A Beatrix Potter Tea

Beatrix Potter "Then Mrs. Tiggy-winkle made tea—a cup for herself and a cup for Lucie. They sat before the fire on a bench and looked sideways at one another. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle's hand, holding the tea-cup, was very very brown, and very very wrinkly with the soap-suds; and all through her gown and her cap, there were hair-pins sticking wrong end out; so that Lucie didn't like to sit too near her." —Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle

"What a nice time you are having, going to so many tea parties!" —Beatrix Potter in a letter to a small friend, 1897


In August, we are celebrating Beatrix Potter, one of the best-loved storytellers of all time. Her enchanting tales are a part of our childhoods, and her magical drawings reach out to the child in every grown-up. Miss Potter was born in London on July 28, 1866. She and her family spent their holidays in Scotland and the Lake Country, where she fell in love with the freedom of nature. She and her brother kept a menagerie of pets, some of which—Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Tiggywinkle, for instance—became models for her stories. She used the earnings from her work to purchase Hill Top Farm, in the Lake District village of Sawry. There, she soon stopped writing and drawing and began to raise sheep and garden (including herbs, of course!). At the age of 47, she married a local solicitor and the two of them moved to Castle Cottage. For the rest of her life, she worked in the fields and fells, caring for her beloved Herdwick sheep (a threatened breed of Lake Country sheep). Her house now belongs to the National Trust. Among the herbs you can find when you visit her garden are mint, chamomile, sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and rue.

You'll find lots more details and descriptions of Miss Potter's home and village in Susan's eight-book mystery series, The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter.


  • Miss Potter's Friends. You probably have several figurines from Beatrix Potter's stories that you can use to decorate your table. If not, you might purchase a used Beatrix Potter book and cut out the colored drawings, or photocopy them. Glue them to foam board or cardboard, and arrange on a lacy table runner, decorated with tussie mussies or posy bouquets in a selection of small tea cups or baskets.

  • Miss Potter's Books. Invite your friends and their children to bring one of their favorite Miss Potter story books and display them on a table fancifully decorated with tiny pots of lavender, tussie mussies, herbal posies, and ribbons. You might share a story by asking each child and grown-up to read one page.

  • You might also display copies of The Cottage Tales and have fun reading and sharing brief passages from the books.

  • Rosemary Basket. An easy, casual table decoration is a simple basket filled with rosemary sprigs, lavender, and thyme. Among these, you might nestle little herb- and flower-posies with their stems wrapped in a wet paper towel and wrapped again in foil. A stroll through your garden with a pair of scissors will yield all you need to make a beautiful basket. A pretty ribbon or streamer will add a graceful touch. And for whimsey, tuck in a few of Peter Rabbit's carrots, fresh from Mr. McGregor's garden.

  • Plates, Napkins, Invitations. A trip to your favorite party or gift-goods shop will probably turn up some appropriate Beatrix Potter paper plates, napkins, cups, and even some other decorations.



Peter Rabbit's Cucumber Sandwiches

  • cucumbers
  • onion
  • salt
  • white bread
  • butter

Peel and slice cucumbers thin. Add a bit of grated onion and salt to taste and let drain in a colander. Remove the crusts from thin-sliced white bread, butter each slice, and cut on the diagonal. Arrange the cucumbers and serve as open-face sandwiches.

Tommy Tiptoes Tomato and Dillwiches

  • fresh tomatoes, sliced very thin
  • fresh or dried dill weed
  • mayonaise
  • white bread

Cut the crusts off the white bread. Wash and slice tomatoes. Spread a thin layer of butter on the bread (to keep the filling from soaking through) and then mayonnaise. Arrange tomato slices on a slice of bread and sprinkle dill weed over it. Place a slice of bread over the top and cut into four pieces (squares or triangles).

Mrs. Tiggywinkle's Nutty Cheeseball

  • ½ pound extra sharp Cheddar
  • ½ pound sharp Cheddar
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 2 tblsp chopped fresh sage
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp mace
  • ½ cup sweet port
  • whole sage leaves for garnish

Grate the cheese and process, blend, or mix well with the butter, sage, nuts, nutmeg, mace, and port. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 24 hours. To serve, shape into a ball or log and dust with nutmeg, or place in a crock. Delicious spread on crisp slices of autumn apple or pear.

Flopsy's Favorite Chocolate Tea Bread

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tblsp plus 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 tblsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier
  • ¾ c half and half
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tblsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 7 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tblsp water

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Beat in orange zest and 1 tablespoon of liqueur. Pour in half-and-half and beat to combine. (This may curdle, but that's okay.) In another bowl, stir and toss together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and gently beat just to combine. Stir in nuts and 4 ounces chopped chocolate. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake 1 hour, until top is golden. Cool in pan on rack. Invert onto serving platter and cool completely. When bread is cool, combine remaining chocolate with water and remaining tablespoon of orange liqueur in heavy saucepan. Place over low heat and melt, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over top and chill to set. Yield: 1 loaf.

Castle Cottage Carrot Cupcakes

  • 3 cups washed, grated carrots (about 1 pound)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • ½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake cups. Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda together. In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar. Add oil, carrots, and vanilla and mix well. Add flour mixture and nuts and raisins. Blend until just mixed. Fill cups ¾ full. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool and frost.


  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • ¼ cup butter (½ stick) or margarine
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • food coloring (yellow, orange, red)

Let cream cheese and butter or margarine come to room temperature. Add vanilla and blend, then beat in sugar. Separate into three small dishes and add food coloring. If the frosting is still too stiff, add a few drops of milk. Frost. Decorate with chocolate chips, colored sugar, etc.

Apply Dapply's Rosy Punch

  • 2 cups rose geranium leaves, washed and dried
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 cup super-fine sugar
  • 8 cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 1 2-liter bottle 7-Up

Place geranium leaves and water in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, let cool. Strain into a large punch bowl and add sugar, cranberry juice cocktail, and orange juice. Mix gently and cover until ready to serve. Then add 7-Up. Add ice ring: Fill a bundt pan half partially with water and freeze. Arrange a few roses, rose geranium leaves, orange slices and bits of fern (or other flowers) on top of the ice and add water until just covered. Freeze again. Add another layer if you wish, and freeze again. Serves about 15. (Adapted from The Best of Thymes, by Marge Clark.)

Mrs. Tittlemouse's Famous Vanilla Milk Tea

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp. English Breakfast Tea
  • 1 quart boiling water

Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla, and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand until the milk is cool. Place the tea leaves in the teapot and add the boiling water. Steep 5 minutes. Pour about ¼ cup of the cooled milk into the teacups. Stir and strain the tea into the cups. Makes 4-5 servings.