Thyme for Tea

Tea Parties: January: A "Roses in Winter" Tea

This month, China and Ruby have invited all their friends to drop in for a tea party celebrating roses. (Ruby believes that we can never have too many roses, and that January is the very best time for them!) If you can't join us at Thyme for Tea, create your own tea party for friends or just for yourself. (Who says we can't party all by ourselves?)


You might not think of roses as herbs, but they have been used for centuries as medicinal, culinary, and crafting plants, and have served as symbols to represent everything from romantic love to unromantic war (the Wars of the Roses, in England, 1455-85). In myth, Venus presented the rose to her son Cupid, who gave it to the god of silence (Harpocrates) to make sure that he didn't tell any of the secrets of the gods. In England, a white rose was displayed at meetings where people were not supposed to reveal what went on—the origin of the phrase sub rosa, meaning silent. White roses also suggest purity and innocence, while red roses symbolize beauty, desire, motherhood. Yellow roses are said to symbolize infidelity and jealousy (but don't tell that to the Yellow Rose of Texas!)

Roses have been used to make rose water, rose vinegar, ointments, salves, syrups, andconfections. The petals have been dried and used to make tea, wine, and liqueur. Perfume is afavorite rose product, of course. Nothing smells sweeter than a rose!

Here's a recipe from 1625, to show you how roses were used as a room freshener. (Those old houses were probably full of "gross air"!)

King Edward Vi's Perfume

Take twelve spoonfulls of right red rosewater, the weight of six pence in fine powder of sugar, and boyl it on hot Embers and coals softly and the house will smell as though it were full of Roses, but you must burn the Sweet Cypress wood before, to take away the grosse ayre.


  1. For the easiest decoration of all, put one beautiful red rose in a small vase in the center of the table. If you can't find a fresh flower, use silk roses—they're also lovely! And if you've saved dried rose petals from your summer garden, you can sprinkle those on your tablecloth for a pretty touch.

  2. For individual favors, make Rose Cones. For each favor, you will need an 8-inch square lace-paper doily and some white glue. Hold the doily in both hands with one corner pointing down. Shape into a cone and glue the edges. Fill with tiny silk roses and a piece of tulle, and tie with a pretty ribbon.

  3. Make a Victorian rosebud topiary that will be a delightful year-round addition to your decor. You'll find directions here

  4. For your rose-geranium punch bowl (see below), make a rose-filled 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.



Open-face Rose-Petal Tea Sandwiches

  • slices of white bread, crusts trimmed
  • butter, softened
  • cream cheese, softened
  • rose petals, washed and dried

Spread butter, then cream cheese on slices of bread. Cut into diamonds, squares, rectangles. Layer on rose petals and press down.

Rose Scones with Walnuts

  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tblsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup shelled walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • a handful of rose petals
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 tblsp rose jelly mixed with about ½ tsp rose water

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir in chopped walnuts. Stir the cream and rose water together. Rinse the rose petals and pat them dry, then chop very finely. (You should have about 2 tablespoons.) Stir the petals into the cream, then mix into the dry ingredients. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet (about two dozen). Bake 10-12 minutes, until brown.

Icing: Combine confectioner's sugar, jelly, and water and whisk until smooth. Add another teaspoon of water if icing seems too thick. (On warm scones, it will soften a bit.) Drizzle on warm scones.

These are best served right after baking. To make in advance, cool without icing and store in lidded container. Then wrap in foil and reheat in 325° oven for 10-15 minutes. Ice while warm and serve. (Adapted from Flowers in the Kitchen, by Susan Belsinger.)

Rose-of-My-Heart Cookies

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp rosewater
  • 2¾ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • red food coloring (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Blend butter, sugar, and eggs, then add rosewater and beat thoroughly. Combine dry ingredients and add gradually to butter-egg mixture, beating well after each addition. Tint pink if desired with drops of food coloring. Chill dough for an hour. Roll out ¼" thick. Cut into heart shapes. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake 9-10 minutes. Glaze with the same icing used for scones (above).

Rose Geranium 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 (see "Decorations" #4 above). Serves about 15. (Adapted from The Best of Thymes, by Marge Clark.)