A celebration, a lovely high tea, a beautiful venue...
To celebrate my Mum's 60th birthday recently I arranged a high tea for family & friends at the beautiful Kaituna Homestead in Kaituna Valley, New Zealand. Before I go any further - a quick geography lesson... Kaituna Valley is about a 40 minute drive from Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Put simply - Kaituna Valley is a lovely, peaceful area surrounded by rolling hills, countryside & fresh air!
I stumbled across Kaituna Homestead in one of my many Google searches at the end of last year when I was planning what to do for Mum's 60th. It had to be something special & an occasion that would fit with what my Mum enjoys the most. Not one for a massive 60th bash & given her absolute love of the high tea we had at The Ritz in London a couple of years ago, I decided that a high tea would be just the thing.
Now, my hometown of Christchurch isn't what it used to be before the earthquakes of 2010 & 2011 which devastated so much of the city. We lost so many buildings, old & new. I really wasn't sure I would be able to find somewhere that could offer the kind of high tea experience I was searching for. You see, the thing about high teas is that they are meant to be quite a special & unique experience & not just a sit down for a cuppa & a piece of cake in the afternoon. So many venues these days will promise traditional high teas & from what I have seen, they turn out to be anything but traditional.
So when I came across the website for Kaituna Homestead, a boutique B&B - imagine my absolute delight when not only did I see that it was a beautiful old homestead surrounded by lovely gardens & rolling hills but they also offered 'homestead high teas' & the first photo I saw was of someone holding a beautiful china teacup with a tasty looking finger sandwich perched daintily on the side! Scrolling down the page further were photos of table settings with white tablecloths, GORGEOUS china tea sets & tiered cake stands adorned with all sorts of beautiful home baking - savoury & sweet. I felt like I had struck gold.
I was on the phone straight away with Penelope, owner of Kaituna Homestead to discuss my plan for Mum's high tea. Penelope knew full well what a proper high tea should be like, having lived in London herself for a number of years & she was soon describing the kind of delightful treats she would bake in her beautiful kitchen (which by the way boasts of an AGA cooker which Penelope bought with her from London!) using seasonal ingredients & produce from the surrounding farm such as milk fresh from the cow & eggs from the chickens. We were soon chatting about the 'London high tea experience' & how so many venues these days really aren't up to scratch when it comes to offering proper high teas.
Time soon flew by & I found myself back in Christchurch on Valentine's Day with my husband celebrating Mum's 60th. We celebrated Mum's actual birthday with a lunch for just Mum & I, followed by a family BBQ. A couple of days later on the Saturday, we all met at Kaituna Homestead for the afternoon tea.
Armed with the birthday cake I made Mum, as soon as I stepped out of the car what struck me the most was how special it was to be able to visit such a beautiful, old home. I say that because Christchurch has sadly lost so much of its heritage in the earthquakes & many older buildings & homes have been demolished. The homestead is surrounded by a tranquil garden setting, hills in the background & lots of birds happily chirping away... I took it all in, along with a big gulp of fresh country air!
What made the afternoon even more special was that we had the exclusive use of the homestead & I could tell that everyone was quietly imagining that it was their own home for the afternoon! Penelope welcomed us inside & showed everyone into the ballroom where the beautiful table awaited our arrival. The homestead was filled with the smooth sound of jazz from the 30's & 40's which really helped to set the tone for the afternoon (my husband & I were chuffed to hear Billie Holiday's 'The Very Thought of You' which was the song we had for our first wedding dance!).
Covered in a white tablecloth & adorned with dainty china teacups, saucers, silverware, flowers & linen napkins - the table looked absolutely stunning in the surrounds of the ballroom.
Penelope has tastefully decorated the interior of the homestead with a well balanced mix of vintage & modern furniture, artwork & ornaments that she has bought with her from London so everything fits in perfectly with the era of the homestead.
We cracked open the bubbles & proceeded to take our places at the table. Penelope bought out some freshly brewed tea in gorgeous china teapots as well as milk straight from the cow! Following closely behind were tiered cake stands filled with Penelope's home baked delights of dainty finger sandwiches & sweet treats such as cinnamon oysters, little berry meringues & chocolate brownies in the shape of love hearts! Everyone quickly relaxed & soaked up the atmosphere of being in such a grand old homestead. Penelope plied us with more tea, sandwiches & an added sweet treat of her delicious & summery mini cheesecakes made with Pimms.
Just when we thought we couldn't possibly fit in another bite, it was time for the birthday cake. Penelope provided a lovely milk glass cake stand which I tentatively slid the cake onto whilst holding my breath! Cue my entry into the ballroom, birthday candles ablaze & singing 'happy birthday' to Mum.
When I first spoke to Penelope I remember her telling me that people who visit the homestead enjoy it so much they don't want to leave & how true that turned out to be. We were all reluctant to leave the peaceful surrounds of the homestead & head back to our busy lives but not before a few photos outside! My husband wandered around the garden & took some lovely photos of the flora & fauna - not to mention a rather impressive close up of a bumblebee on a daisy!
All in all, our high tea at Kaituna Homestead was everything I had hoped for & more. Penelope worked so hard to ensure we had a perfect high tea experience & she made us feel like we were right at home. So a huge thank you to Penelope for thoroughly spoiling us & most of all for making my Mum's 60th high tea such a special, memorable occasion.
It goes without saying that I thoroughly recommend the Kaituna High tea as everything a proper high tea should be & for anyone holidaying in the South Island of New Zealand, definitely check out Kaituna Homestead if you fancy a lovely, idyllic place to stay away from the bustle of the city (but might I say close enough not to be a hassle to get to!). If you are in need of some peace, space & fresh air then this is just the place for you www.kaitunahomestead.com.
I'll end this blog by saying happy birthday again to my Mum. What wonderful memories we have of your very special birthday celebration. Lots of love xx