It all started with an obituary — her own. When Patricia Bradby's business school professor instructed her to put pen to paper and write her own death announcement, she found herself visualizing her future in a way she hadn't considered.
"When you're forced to think about the legacy that you're going to leave behind, you start to think about what's important," Bradby says. "When I wrote that obituary, I actually wrote about this company. I said to myself somewhere down the line, even if not right away, I want to start a tea company."
And so began Miss Priss Tea, Bradby's Richmond-based catering service that provides Victorian-style tea parties for private events and pop-ups. Bradby loved playing host to afternoon tea for her friends when she lived in New York, and just a few months after returning to Richmond in November 2015, she held four teas for her first official client, Berkeley Plantation, during Historic Garden Week. Since then, she's served loose-leaf teas, finger sandwiches and scones against a backdrop of lace tablecloths and fresh floral arrangements for bridal showers, birthday parties and corporate events. And now that she's acquired teacups made out of melamine — less likely to break, less likely to give Bradby a heart attack when dropped by little hands — she's also expanded her services to include children's celebrations.
For those who can handle the responsibility of fragile, elegant china — mismatched but coordinated, which Bradby painstakingly and lovingly selects on frequent visits to antique stores — she offers what she hopes will be a new niche for her business: a bridal suite tea service.
"It's that time of day when the bride and bridesmaids are getting ready for the ceremony," she says. "Little bites and relaxing tea in the morning before the important day ahead of you, when you want something quick, nourishing and not messy."
A self-taught baker who started out with boxed cake mixes and sprinkles as a child, Bradby created a menu of classic tea time treats for clients to choose from. She makes little finger sandwiches with fillings such as prosciutto with fig, tomato pesto cream cheese and egg salad with bacon, plus sweets along the lines of chocolate-covered strawberries, lemon cake cookies, coconut macaroons and banana nut muffins. And what's an afternoon or morning tea without scones? Those she bakes in the buttermilk, blueberry, lemonade and cinnamon varieties, each served with clotted cream.
Of course, the star of the show is the tea. Bradby gets most of it from Discover Teas, a now online-only company that used to have a storefront in Newport News. Her favorite is Miss Priss' Perfect Tea, a caffeinated blend she worked with the owners to create specifically for her business, featuring black tea, vanilla, bergamot, black currant, chamomile and lavender. Her menu includes four other caffeinated teas, two more blacks and two greens, plus five decaffeinated options, such as peppermint and other herbals.
Check out Bradby's upcoming collaborative farm-to-table tea dinner at the Broken Tulip on Sunday, Jan. 28. For $38 you'll get four courses of locally-sourced small bites prepared by chef David Crabtree-Logan, each paired with an American-grown tea. You can find tickets at missprisstea.com.
Who says dinner has to come before dessert? At the first ever Four Forks pop-up, the sweets are in the spotlight. Held in the Urban Roost at Lunch and Supper on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 25, the event will begin with heavy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. Once everyone has a seat (which will be assigned), three desserts, each paired with a beverage, will arrive as separate courses: bourbon creme brulee tart, blood orange and olive oil cake, and dark chocolate sticky toffee pudding. Tickets cost $50 a pop. Keep an eye on Four Forks' Facebook page for upcoming pop-ups and events.
After nearly 10 years of providing healthy and sustainable foods to thousands of people in the Richmond area, Shalom Farms is breaking new ground. Literally. The nonprofit recently acquired 5 acres of North Side land belonging to Union Presbyterian Seminary, part of the Westwood site. Shalom Farms relies heavily on volunteers to harvest the fruits and veggies, which are then distributed to people, families and organizations that need it.
Movin' on up
Good news for everyone who just wants to have a seat before digging into a granola-topped acai bowl: Ginger Juice is moving from its takeout-only spot in the Village to a larger storefront in the same shopping center. The menu, featuring cold-pressed juices, made-to-order smoothies, acai bowls and toast, (including the avocado variety, natch), will remain the same. Mark your calendars for the grand opening Tuesday, Feb. 13.