Library Hosts Downton Abbey Tea Party

Courant Community

White laced gloves, fancy hats, and fine china, the ever watchful and cutting Violet Crawley would have been pleased with the Windsor Public Library's 3rd annual Downton Abbey Tea Party on Jan. 22.

Though the revered British series ended last year, interest has not gone away, which was apparent at the tea party - held in the library's community room. Participants were encouraged to bring their own cup and saucer to the afternoon tea.

Freshly baked scones, delicate dessert, and chocolate truffles topped the menu, along with assorted teas. Many of the women wore hats and dressed in their finest. The tea included a Downton Abbey quiz and word jumble. The quiz asked the current roles of the former Downton cast members.

For six seasons, a worldwide audience followed the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family, led by Lord and Lady Crawley (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern).

The lives of the servants, integral to the narrative, provided the upstairs-downstairs conflict in a time when the help was barely seen or acknowledge, ghosts who created the illusion of stability for the fragile family.

The Sunday tea at the library was a reminder of more refined times when sipping tea, nibbling on cucumber sandwiches, and gentle conversation was the norm and a time to catch up on gossip.

Danielle Tapper, the adult reference librarian, played hostess along with her mother, Pat. The Tappers served tea from decorative ceramic kettles. No teabags allowed. The day was not limited to Downton fans, but to all who wished a quieter setting.

Though a mild January day, Tapper said the tea party provided a welcomed respite from the winter.

"I really think the tea and the treats, the socialization and the ambiance are why they come," Tapper said.

Dressing up was not a requirement at the tea, but Tapper welcomed the fancier attire.

"The more the merrier," she said. "It's something a lot of people don't do anymore. My mom and I do this thing all the time."

The Tappers have hosted tea themed bridal and baby showers for friends and family.

For this year's tea, cardboard cups were banished and replaced with fine china. A wide-assortment of china patterns were on display.

She added the tea sandwiches are not as popular as the sweets. The tasty scones and lemon lavender cookies were from Get Baked, a local bakery. The chocolate truffle is a tea time tradition.

"You always ended tea with chocolate," said Tapper.

Margie James, of Enfield, who wore white-laced gloves and a delicate brown hat, came to the series late. She caught up with past episodes online, which provided her the necessary context to fully enjoy the series.

"I started watching and that was it, I was hooked," she said.

James was drawn to the quality acting, the pre- and post-WWI era Downton Abbey took place, the "pomp and circumstance," and the ever present British class system, when the ruling class lorded over all.

"My grandmother used to have teas. Her church used to have teas. We both love teas now," James said.

She deemed Maggie Smith's character, Violet Crawley, her favorite on the show.

"She is the best," she said. "I just love her. Whatever she says is hysterical."

James has daily tea with friend, Karen Caron, who also wore a hat and white-laced gloves. Caron also entered the series late, but watched the first two seasons in a weekend. She was fully prepared for season three and beyond.

She found the servants enjoyable to watch, people at ease with themselves, not dictated so strictly by societal rules that governed the Crawley's lives day and night. However, Smith was "her girl," a woman who "said it like it was."

Caron brought a tea cup with a thatched-cottage motif. She bought her hat online, which has become her go to hat for teas.

"It's not my first tea," she said.

She and James hold tea daily at 4 p.m., often inviting a group of friends.

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