Lilies at tea time seem perfect this time of year, since their fragrance fills the Spring time air.
Lilies are some of the most symbolic of flowers, next to roses. They are used in wedding bouquets and are associated with certain wedding anniversaries (Calla Lilies are for the 6th wedding anniversary and Day Lilies are for the 20th wedding anniversary). There are Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) that symbolize hope, life, innocence and virtue, and those Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) symbolize sympathy, resurrection, faith, purity, and youth, while Lilies of the Field symbolize providing for people’s needs. Then there are Peruvian lilies that represent friendship and devotion, Pink Stargazer lilies that represent immense wealth and prosperity, and White Stargazer lilies that represent peace and purity. In ancientGreece lilies were the “hubba hubba” flower and were associated by ancient Egyptians with fertility, while inChina they were used as a lucky charm. Plus, there was an old folktale that said if a pregnant woman, when presented with a lily and a rose, would choose the lily, she would have a boy (hey, it’s just what I’ve heard — not supported by statistical evidence).
In addition to all this symbolism and being in bouquets, lilies are often used as decoration in vases on the tea table, and lily petals have been part of tea time as part of the steeping fun. They are sewn into “flowering teas” tea balls along with full tea leaves (these teas unfold in the hot water, looking like a bloom emerging).
Jasmine is often part of the combination of tea leaves and flower petals, like this gorgeous version from the Fujian Province in China:
Lilies are also featured on teawares. One example is this bone china set (also available in separate pieces) that can really add a Spring time touch to your table. Plus, Royal Albert has a lily of the valley design.
There is even a tisane (which the vendor calls a “lily tea” but that is also known as “Jin Zhen Cai,” “Browns Lily,” “Lily Bulb,” and “Bai He”) made solely of lily petals. It is said to have a variety of healthful properties, such as moistening the lungs and alleviating coughs, calming your nerves, and firming the skin so that wrinkles are reduced. A 2- or 3-minute infusion in water heated to 194°F (90°C) will produce a tisane with a refreshing, sweet, and smooth taste.
Don’t miss The Calla Lily Victorian Tea Room inAurora,Illinois (a suburb ofChicago). They serve a variety of teas (but none saying that they include lily petals) along with a full menu of traditional foods for tea time (sadly, they misuse the term “high tea,” which is usually a full meal with a meat dish).
In the arts, lilies have had a number of notable roles. Artist Georgia O’Keefe featured them in several well-known paintings. In the movie “Stage Door” Katharine Hepburn is supposed to carry a bunch of Calla Lilies onstage while conveying sadness over a marriage that is ending. And then there is the great actor Sidney Poitier who starred in “Lilies of the Field.”
Truly a most versatile flower, for tea time and beyond!
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