First things first – HAPPY NEW YEAR! I have a feeling 2014 will be an incredible year for tea. All readings of the tea leaves are pointing to a great year ahead. So what shall we do? – what will you do? …when we visit World Tea Expo in Long Beach, California, in May, 2014? Reading the tea leaves makes me think of a ship. I attended a tea leaf reading once and when we looked inside my cup there was an image of a ship! Really!…it looked like a tea clipper ship. The meanings of a ship in your teacup include: news from distant lands; a successful journey; a voyage. I’ll take it! So this leads into my wanting to tell you more about The Queen Mary ship which happens to be docked in Long Beach. It is a hotel offered through the World Tea Expo room block. It is also a place you might like to visit for afternoon tea. Now, I will tell you straight up that I have not been there to try it. But it sounds inviting, romantic even. Just the idea of having afternoon tea on an old ship makes me think of a more formal, old-time, tea experience. Again, I have not yet been there, but I will share some information I have found through research and recent communications with Commodore Everette Hoard. Commodore Everette Hoard began his career at the Queen Mary in 1981. His current position as Commodore involves officiating wedding ceremonies, catering to VIP’s, extensive media work, lectures, and archival curating. THE QUEEN MARY: Arriving in Long Beach in 1967 after a distinguished 31-year career as an Atlantic liner and a WWII troopship, the Queen Mary has become a centerpiece of the Long Beach waterfront and one of the most recognized attractions. As the fastest and most elegant ship afloat during the heydays of trans-Atlantic travel, the Queen Mary carried the rich and famous as well as thousands of tourists and immigrants. Today, the Queen Mary can still transport her passengers to a bygone era via history and imagination. Visitors to the Queen Mary can stay on board in a stateroom, dine in the ship’s restaurants and shop on the Promenade Deck. The 346 original first-class staterooms and nine suites are situated on three decks and all are above sea level and no two rooms are alike! Guided and walking tours bring back the grand history of this famous ship. AFTERNOON TEA: Commodore Hoard told me, “The Queen Mary is sort of ‘Tea Incarnate’ if you will!” “Tea in this majestic and compelling ship is a most enjoyable experience as The Queen Mary possesses her very own insatiable magic and has a way of making every guest feel Royal.” Certainly Afternoon Tea was rigorously observed in her 31 years as a North Atlantic liner. Always served in the Main Lounge, it was a white-gloved affair and is still observed in the modern Cunard fleet at sea today. In 1967 on The Queen Mary’s last day in New York, Estée Lauder went aboard for tea. She told a steward, “It was always like having tea in a castle.” Today, The Queen Mary has dedicated a lovely space for tea in forward superstructure on the Sun Deck. The tea room is semi-circular in shape with dramatic views of the Long Beach skyline, and unlike The Queen Mary’s darker Odeon/Art Deco décor it is done in cool sophisticated shades of light gray with white trim and lovely pewter carpets. The traditional tea is for two and served in two courses; first being the cucumber, salmon, tomato and egg salad sandwiches and also the petits fours with several pâtés being used as well as salmon and caviar. The second course is a lavish array of sweets including tarts, tea cakes, and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The hours for the tea room aboard The Queen Mary are 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. - 7 days a week. A truly British tea experience, there’s nothing more authentic than The Queen Mary Windsor Tea Service. To learn more and view the menu – click here. The tea room is situated next to the Princess Diana/Royal Family Exposition. “Diana: Legacy of a Princess" showcases a priceless collection of evening gowns, dresses, personal accessories, photographs, heirlooms and other cherished memorabilia associated with Princess Diana and the Royal Family. The exhibit is open year round and will be on The Queen Mary for approximately 4 more years. GETTING THERE: Long Beach Transit offers a free Passport Bus (click here for details) that runs between the Convention Center, Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village, and downtown Long Beach. It is about a 10 minute ride. Commodore Hoard said, “If one is a walker it is perhaps a mile from the Queen Mary to the Convention Center.” TO LEARN MORE: Please visit QueenMary.com As more details become available about the 2014 World Tea Expo, I will be sharing more through this monthly blog posting. To view all of my blog entries, simply click my name up top by the title. I encourage you to contact me directly, or comment here if you have something positive to share or a question I may help to answer. Read more about afternoon tea aboard The Queen Mary in the May/June 2014 issue of The Tea House Times which you will find on display at World Tea Expo in May. Until next time, I remain California Dreamin’… : ) Gail Gastelu, The Tea House Times PHOTOS: Courtesy of The Queen Mary.