Connecting with girlfriends for afternoon tea yesterday left me feeling great, probably the happiest and most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. I’ve been busy with work lately, and it felt nice just spending time with a big bunch of girls. After tea, as I drove home across the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought about friendship and the power it has to make us feel better.
An outside view of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco
This is one of those painfully obvious things, but research shows that socializing with friends may help you live longer. Maybe that’s why I love blogging so much. =)
A landmark UCLA study suggested that spending time with friends helped counteract the effects of stress on the body. Study after study confirms that having a social network reduces one’s risk of disease by lowering heart rate, cholesterol and blood pressure.
The UCLA study suggested that when the hormone oxytocin is released (the same hormone released during hugging, touching and orgasm) as part of the stress response in women, it has a different effect on women than it does on men; in women (but not in men), oxytocin is believed to have a calming effect. It’s also believed to trigger a desire to tend to others (like children) and to gather with other women. And, when a woman engages in “tending and befriending,” studies suggest that even more oxytocin gets released, further countering the effects of stress on the body.
I don’t know if it was the oxytocin talkin’, but I definitely felt less stressed after tea at the Ritz. Most of Ritz-Carlton’s hotels worldwide offer an afternoon tea service. Tony Roumph, Lounge Manager of the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, suggested directly checking with a hotel beforehand because at some properties tea service is by reservation only.
At the Ritz in Frisco, afternoon tea is served between 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Fridays and between 1-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It was served in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge, an elegant room with city views, crystal chandeliers, fine china and live music (a harpist, yo!). Most hotels will choose one of their more elegant rooms for afternoon tea. Dress was sophisticated casual (aka not your scrubby jeans and Adidas Shell Toe sneakers). I wore a black knit dress with boots, and a few of the other girls wore dark jeans with cute sweaters.
My friends and I made reservations a few weeks ago, giving the hotel our menu selection at the time. We had six ladies in our party, but Tony says they can accommodate groups of up to 30 people. It’s also not uncommon at all for people to attend tea service by themselves, so if you’re not a fan of big groups or just want to fly solo, that’s cool too.
Planning an Event…
If you’re in charge of planning afternoon tea (or any other event) with the girls, spreadsheets and e-mail can help.
Start by hammering out the bigger details first, like the size of the group, schedule and budget, and work from there down to the smaller details, like (for afternoon tea) the menu.
If I’m in charge of planning something for a group, the first thing I’ll do is send out a mass e-mail to see who can attend. In it, I’ll ask members of the group to choose from a few dates. Not everyone takes e-mail seriously, so one thing that can help move things along are the words “Reply Requested” in the subject line. After each person provides their preferred dates, I note them on my trusty chart, circling the date on which the largest number of people can attend. Here’s an example chart I made in Microsoft Excel (hand-drawn charts work, too):
I love spreadsheets for planning. After pinpointing a date, I’ll use a similar process to pinpoint a time. Spreadsheets are also a handy way to track a large number of different menu (or drink) choices. LOL, can you tell I’m a freak for details?
Entrance to the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco…
After we took our seats, they brought out the champagne! We did some catching up while a harpist interpreted classic Beatles tunes.
We chose what the SF Ritz-Carlton refers to as the Royal Tea Service, one of five tiers of service ranging from $36-$49 per person. After we finished our champagne cocktails, Neizel, our wonderful server, brought out two trays of food and explained the different types of sandwiches, pastries and sweets.
My favorites were the cucumber, roquefort and walnut on white bread and the egg and chive sandwiches, yum! I also really liked the scone, which I smothered in Devonshire cream.
Neizel then poured the tea and kept it flowing throughout the party. We choose from among four different varieties: vanilla bean-black tea, chocolate, peppermint and darjeeling.
After the sandwiches and pastries it was time for dessert, in this case fresh strawberries and vanilla cream.
While afternoon tea was fun, I realize that it was the socializing part that really made the day.
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,