April 9, 2001
Students learn art of high tea
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
DUVALL - Dressed in their Sunday best, they poured tea and ate delicate sandwiches and scones off China plates. Amid the clinking of cups, they discussed esoteric topics, such as the latest literature.
The occasion? High Tea, held last week in the library of Cherry Valley Elementary School.
The tea, brainchild of Cherry Valley Librarian Nelda Brangwin, is a special yearly event. Students, staff and parents are invited if they have read "a significant number of award-winning books in a year," said Brangwin.
Brangwin began recognizing young readers a few years back with small dessert luncheons that were generally attended by only a few girls.
Three years ago, in hopes of generating more interest and encouraging youngsters to learn a love for reading, she changed the event to a high tea after school.
It worked! Almost 60 third through fifth grade students attended last Thursday's high tea.
"It's been growing every year," said Brangwin. "The kids are very excited about it. And it's incredible that half now are boys."
And what exactly is a high tea? Brangwin said it is an old middle class English tradition that once took the place of dinner.
"It was the evening meal," she said. "Then it became a social event."
Scones are generally served with clotted cream and jam, she said, but the students actually ate a "mock" version of clotted cream, made from cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar. Also on the menu were three kinds of sandwiches and strawberries and cakes for dessert.
Brangwin said her husband, John, helps prepare the food for the PTA co-sponsored event. Parents and staff bring table settings, set the tables and serve tea.
Students are encouraged to invite people they admire. Among those sent invitations were First Lady Laura Bush (no reply) and Washington state's First Lady Mona Locke (who sent her regrets).
But some local celebrities were clearly honored to be invited. Cartoonist Brian Basset (Adam @ home in The Seattle Times) and local children's author David Patneaude were each seated next to the student who invited them. KIRO Radio's Dave Ross and the Mariner Moose have attended past events.
"This has turned into a big deal," said Brangwin. "The kids love it. But we couldn't do it without the parents, staff and, of course, my husband."