Two years ago, Meagan Benson was at a crossroads with her career. She wanted to make a change, but wasn’t sure what to do. Her British-born husband, Graham, mentioned how she always made everything so pretty and lovely. “It was literally like a light bulb went off and in that moment, Pretty Lovely Teas was born,” she says.
She combined that great Southern hospitality with which she was raised with the lovely tradition of British afternoon tea and brought it to Nashville. While many of the teas she prepares are for adults, it was important for her to offer the same experience to children. Unlike the tea parties of the past, this is a much fancier affair.
“A lot of adults are shocked when I put out actual china on the table,” she says. “The tablescape needs to be colorful and eye-catching, but I don't want it to be just this cutesy thing. They deserve to have a luxe experience as well. Plus, I want children to feel like ‘I'm a big kid.’ That was important to me when I was a child.”
At every tea, two different types of tea are offered. “For children, I have one black that's typically a breakfast tea, and this is traditionally taken with milk and sugar, and sometimes honey. Then, we have a botanical sort of lighter tea that is more floral and fruitier, and that is usually served with a slice of lemon.”
Meagan says it's fun for the children to add the milk and sugar themselves. “The whole concept and experience is sort of sensory. They get to touch the sugar cubes and pour their own milk. It allows them to feel independent and that they have these nice things to enjoy. It's all about that aesthetic, and they want fancy, too.”
For kids who are not tea fans, a sparkling apple cider from a fancy bottle is also offered. At Christmastime, hot chocolate with marshmallows is served, too.
Food items are presented on a three-tiered platter and there are sandwiches and sweets dedicated strictly for children. For kids without nut allergies, the Elvis sandwich, made with banana and peanut butter, is a big hit. The Ladybug, which is a Nutella and strawberry sandwich, is another delicious option. And of course, classics, such as a turkey sandwich, also are offered. Scones may include the popular chocolate chip and/or the blueberry lemon.
“Typically, when you have an afternoon tea, you start with the sandwiches and work your way up the tiers, with the sweet treats being last. But, the kids are allowed to explore and experience it in any order they want.”
Although Pretty Lovely Teas doesn’t focus on etiquette, Meagan says it’s a natural part of the whole experience. “They gain some simple manners, such as ‘Would you please pass this’ and learning how to share. I don’t treat them any differently than adults when serving them.”
Along with eating and drinking, children also have fun activities, such as coloring and making crowns. “We also allow them to be creative with cookie decorating and fun table games,” she says.
Whether people hire her to do birthday parties, wedding and baby showers, or other events they are hosting, Meagan doesn’t want the atmosphere to be pretentious. “I want it to be approachable and fun, but still elegant.”
She provides everything necessary to make experiences possible at homes or event venues. The minimum party is for 10, and they also can handle large parties with a variety of serving options.
“It's not just about the food, and it's not just about the tablescape; it's about being around each other,” says Meagan.