Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Art of Afternoon Tea blogger Alexandra Nea is an exquisite illustrator fascinated by fashion, vintage china and lace, and the beauty of baking. When I was asked to talk tea for the launch of Downton Abbey Season 2 DVD, the was the first person I thought of. Watch this space (and the Oxford St Mrs Press store for our collaboration). In the meantime, put the kettle on...

Illustrations copyright Alexandra Nea/The Art of Afternoon Tea

What's so fab about afternoon tea, Alexandra? "The ritual of taking tea is a wonderful way to bring people together. In this age of constant chatter but little communication it’s the perfect way to break from the reality of the daily grind and reconnect with your favourite people. Taking the time to create a homemade delicacy, laying out your finest china, a fresh vase of crumpled garden roses...a moment not to be rushed. It's the simple things in life that bring joy."

My favourite afternoon tea outfit of all time is..."A1900s blouse covered in hand-embroidered Chinoiserie detail and finished off with the finest lace caplet draped around the neck and shoulders. It is referred to as The Lovely Top in our household. Sadly it is too old and delicate to wear. My favourite wearable piece is a 1918 antique lace tea dress, exactly like to type worn by the Downton Abbey ladies to a garden party! I would pair this with oynx drop earrings, a cropped cashmere cardigan and some statement heels."

To my kitchen tea I wore... "I wore a summer maxi dress I created myself. Fine cotton voile with a faint, pale blue, very tiny floral print, a 1950s-style gathered bust and wide shoulder straps, it flared into a flowing princess cut skirt over my cork wedges."

If I were a cake, I would be... "a white chocolate cheesecake."

Milk or lemon? "Milk please."

Tea for... "Breakfast, lunch and dinner!"

I treasure vintage china because..."I have a love for out of the ordinary. I love that each piece I collect comes with a history, perhaps a secret to be told. Something in the antique patterns appeals to me, perhaps the pretty delicate shapes of the cups, the hand-painted patterns and fine gold trimming."
My absolute favourite piece is..."my grandmother's Royal Doulton Moss Rose teacup trio- the perfect combination of hand-painted country roses in soft tones set off with a dusty green trim. Heaven!  It was actually given to her as a tennis trophy back in the day."

When I am making a cake I feel..."full - I tend to sample a little too much of the mixture as I go."

J'adore... "the tea scenes in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and the floating tea party from the movie Mary Poppins."

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