The Whitchurch Silk Mill was filled on Friday June 14th 2013 for what turned out to be a magical evening, reports Graham Burgess…

The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung and the Empress Xi Ling Shi welcomed the guests in Chinese. Their beautiful silk garments fitted by Denyse Coles formed the beginning of the story.  Since they were unable to speak English, that evening Graham Burgess read out their messages concerning the history of tea and silk.

Then came the first connection with water – a delicious watercress soup made from leaves supplied by Vitacress. The Emperor and Empress then poured delicious wines sourced from a new local business: Haynes Hanson and Clark.

Outside on a barbecue kindly loaned by The Festival Committee Mike Gale cooked the carefully prepared chunks of rainbow trout, fifty servings from five giant fish carefully sliced by his wife Julie.

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, doubtless he never did” was the historic 16th century statement read out by Graham Burgess before strawberries from the local Pick Your Own were served. The Emperor and Empress served the cream.

Then Mike Gale of Twinings Teas gave a fascinating illustrated talk on the history of tea. Finally The King of Black Teas, Keemun, rich, smooth, velvety tasting and lightly scented with a clear golden syrup colour and a soft nutty aroma and subtle peppery undertone was served to all.

Julie Gale’s team worked hard with her daughter working in the kitchen and serving. Bella Stead and Grace Castle waited on tables and cleared plates and glasses. The Gill Nethercott Centre kindly loaned crockery and cutlery and Sue Tapliss’s team at the Silk Mill provided historic hospitality.

Les Jordan and Grace Turner as Emperor and Empress enriched the evening from start to finish.

Graham Burgess received a very precious gift sent from Stephen Twining in the form of a china tea-cup similar to one given to Her Majesty The Queen.

All in all the evening represented a wonderful linking of historical values with today’s values and people involved in local business. The guests invested their caring time and the Chinese Calendar was right in that it was a lucky day.

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