When we break from the busyness of the day and jump off the treadmill, cup in hand and perhaps under the shade of a tree, tea time is a respite. It’s a chance to rest and compose ourselves amid the seemingly never-ending work. When my daughters were little, we often enjoyed a cup of tea together after they returned home from school. It signalled a quiet time, a time to decant the day and reconnect before homework and a busy evening. Tea time has been a wonderful tradition, but lately, with pressures from life and business, it seems to have disappeared from my life almost completely.
Over the years here at South Pond, I have been fortunate to be as creative as I like. I have offered so many different types of events, from bread baking to a South American cooking class to full moon suppers. Some events have been more successful than others, but we have learned what works, what is appreciated, and what isn’t.
Historically, country socials of all kinds happened in the barn, in the fields, or on the front lawn. Holding tea in the garden is more English garden than Ontario farmhouse, prompting visions of manicured lawns and wicker chairs on the front porch. Nevertheless, I have often dreamt about offering tea on the lawn, with the backdrop of our gardens, the gentle slopes of the hills, and, of course, the barn and silo. I love the Impressionist painting Summer Afternoon Tea in the Garden by van Rysselberghe, the Belgian artist who depicted hatted and well-dressed ladies idly enjoying the afternoon with tea, needlepoint, and reading. Surely it could be just as perfect at South Pond?
After encouragement from friends, I decided to offer a farmhouse tea service open to the public. I chose Pluck Teas to pair with our culinary offerings. Pluck Tea is an Ontario-based company that uses sustainable and local ingredients such as lavender, cranberries, and grape skins. We planned a truly interactive farm experience: afternoon tea enjoyed with a stroll through the gardens, on the trails, or just a simple a visit to see the goats and pigs.
We set up “stations” for tea service: tables in the barn, in the silo, and under the elm tree, laden with savory sandwiches, scones and other baked goods, and jams. Each table had its own tea pairing.
As it turned out, our afternoon tea at the farm was one of the highlights of June. It was a beautiful day, lovely and warm, and our guests seemed to really enjoy themselves. They loved the barn and tea stations and food. We will do it again — in fact, we already have a date set on the South Pond calendar of events.
I’m thinking of offering a “tea walk,” whereby I make up a refreshing tea from a mixture of herbs and flowers picked fresh from the farm that people can enjoy, hot or cold, in a Mason jar as they stroll around the farm. I am intrigued by the properties of herbs and how they can be combined to make different teas. I love the idea that some herbs are invigorating, or relaxing, or help us focus, and that, overall, they contribute to our well-being.
My journey has been propelled by a series of ideas, some good and others not so good, often had while drinking a cup of tea. I feel so lucky that people have appreciated and connected with what we offer at South Pond. So many of us are on the same mission to experience a deeper connection with where we live and our surrounding environment. Ultimately, I moved my family to the country so we could connect to the land and find peace. Watching our guests stroll our property, tea in hand, reminded me to take time to enjoy and be grateful for what we have here on the farm.
I’m Danielle French, founder and owner of South Pond Farms. South Pond was founded in 2008 as a small food delivery business. I would grow food in my garden, make prepared meals and deliver them all over the GTA. Since then, the farm has been slowly restored and converted into a culinary destination, offering special events, weddings, workshops and corporate retreats all set in our restored century barn in the rolling hills of rural Ontario. My vision is to create a connection to the land, the food we grow and prepare in our kitchen to bringing people together.