That teatime tradition

NEWPORT BEACH — Muldoon's Irish Pub this weekend will revive the old mid-afternoon custom of friends coming together over a piping hot cup of tea.

On Saturday afternoon, sisters Lissi Kaplan and Sindi Rae Schwartz will host the first of many Irish Country Tea parties at Muldoon's. They'll serve up home-cooked finger-foods and lead a discussion about the history of tea and porcelain settings.

"Tea is very much a part of the Irish culture," said Schwartz, co-owner of the Newport Beach pub. "It's very much about creating a moment, sitting down and taking a breath to enjoy the aromas, flavors and conversation around the table."

The ritual of sitting down to tea is emotionally significant for the sisters, who are Irish on their mother's side. They had done this often with their mother before her death about 10 years ago. Since then Schwartz and Kaplan have extended the teatime tradition to their own families in different ways.

While Schwartz frequently bakes cakes and slices cucumbers for sandwiches —and other recipes straight from her mother's kitchen — Kaplan is more of a specialist in antique tea settings.

Taking up a paintbrush, Kaplan began in 1997 to use fragile porcelain as her canvas.

Her work has since been commissioned for Hillary Clinton's use aboard Air Force One — when the secretary of state and former senator was first lady of the United States — and to represent another FLOTUS, Nancy Reagan, for the Reagan Presidential Library Museum Store in Simi Valley, the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel and the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel, Kaplan said.

The delicate paintings of twining vines, flowers and birds each represent the person for whom the work was commissioned, Kaplan said. One of her sets of a cup and saucer, which are sold as collector's items, can range in price from $95 to $175 per cup and matching saucer, depending on the intricacy of the painting, said her husband, Richard Kaplan.

"Everyone has a garden inside of them," said Kaplan, explaining how she spends time with each client whenever possible before painting so that she can get a feeling for what flower best captures that person's essence.

For Clinton, for example, Kaplan said that she painted "very strong roses."

"I used my brightest pink to characterize her very strong conviction, passions and feelings," she continued.

Kaplan's tea settings are meant to soothe, she said. Much in the same way that the act of sitting down with friends and family over tea is a soothing one.

Unfortunately, the bonding ritual is being lost as people become more caught up in modern technological conveniences and find that real conversations often fall wayside to e-mails and text messages, Schwartz said.

The teatime ritual is something both women would like to see brought back — starting with this weekend.

"There's something about sitting down to a cup of tea that inspires good conversation," Kaplan said. "It's poetry."

If You Go

What: Irish Country Tea Party

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Muldoon's Irish Pub, 202 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach

Cost: $30 per person, includes flute of champagne, pot of Harney & Sons tea, and food

Info: RSVP by calling (949) 640-4110

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