Patricia at the Plaza: Author Examines Traditions of Tea

Lady Patty Farmer’s new book, “Tea Under the Palms: From Leaf to Kettle, a History of Tea and the Art of a Proper Tea Party,” encourages people to bring back the tradition of afternoon tea parties.

| 26 Apr 2023 | 12:12

Author Patty Farmer is taking on a new title for her new book. Though she won’t share the secrets of how she got her ladyship, Lady Patricia Farmer is ready to share all her secrets to proper manners in her new book “Tea Under the Palms: From Leaf to Kettle, a History of Tea and the Art of a Proper Tea Party.”

The book chronicles the history of tea, how it came to Europe, and how it’s used now. Tea Under the Palms also contains recipes for the best cakes, pastries, and finger sandwiches to accompany your afternoon tea.

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in New Jersey, Farmer has a love for New York and its tea rooms. She now lives in Portugal, a decision she made after the pandemic, and she travels around the world for work.

This is her second book focusing on the Plaza Hotel, the first one being Starring the Plaza, a history of the famous hotel with a spotlight on the movies, TV shows, and stars that helped make it famous.

Tea Under the Palms was released April 11th on Amazon, and sold out immediately.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired you to write this book?

Like a lot of young ladies, my mother took me to the Plaza Hotel for tea when I was seven years old. It was like nothing I had seen in New Jersey, the magic of the Plaza. They had trees inside the restaurants, palm trees. That was what inspired the title of my book. I thought that was magical. At seven years old it was a life changing experience. It made me work hard, so I could get to go to tea as much as I wanted.

How often do people in your life go for tea?

One thing I find fascinating is that you talk about tea, and people think, “Oh, my aunt took me or my grandmother took me,” but I’m finding that millennials and younger demographics are really making the tradition popular. And people are getting together for tea after work.

How did you research for this book?

Any book I write, I always put a research team together. I have a two person research team and I have a photo researcher, who found heaps of legitimate research. Then I came through it and found out exactly what direction I wanted to pursue. [”Tea Under the Palms”] tells about going back to 1600s how tea arrived in France. Not England, everybody thinks it’s a very British custom, which it is now, but it went to France first. It’s, it takes you back to the 1600s and tells you a lot of history. And if I’m good at my job, people don’t even realize they’re learning things.

There are a ton of recipes in your book. How did you decide on which ones would be in there?

I had to test them. We had a test kitchen going. I have a lot of British girlfriends, and they would talk to their mothers and find out a lot of things we’re not that used to here [in the US]. So I put the ones that were really yummy in my book.

What’s your favorite thing to have with your tea?

Oh, gosh, I want it all. I want little finger sandwiches and I want my scones and I want that top tier of all kinds of pastries and goodies.

What is your favorite place to go for tea?

I still go to the Plaza. I think that is my favorite. And from the book you can see I’ve researched every single place. I’ve personally been to Hong Kong to Vancouver to Paris to London. And I default back to New York and the Plaza Hotel as my favorite.

What are your preferences when it comes to tea?

I always go for the champagne tea. You know if I can have it I want it all, so I get the champagne, I get the tea, I get all the sweets.

How do you feel about microwaving a cup of water to make tea?

Oh my gosh, no. I feel bad enough when people use tea bags. No, do not microwave tea.

The book officially came out on April 11th. How did you celebrate?

Oh, I had champagne. Of course champagne.

How do you think people will react to the book?

Amazon actually ran out of books for a couple of days. So I guess there are other people that like tea also. This is a perfect book for Mother’s Day. And we have the coronation coming up of King Charles. So I anticipate a lot of people celebrating those events and maybe getting a book or two.

What do you want people to take away?

That it’s something to be enjoyed. Everybody thinks afternoon tea: “Oh my gosh, pinkies in the air” and it’s not. It’s an hour or hour-and-a-half opportunity to turn the phone off, sit with friends, sit with colleagues, have a conversation, have some good food, have some champagne.