We have been catering together for twenty years but have been doing afternoon teas on vintage crockery for the last five years. We also hire it out if people want to use it with their own afternoon tea.
It came about when we did an afternoon tea for a wedding and they wanted to hire vintage crockery for it but found it too expensive. We lent them our own vintage set for their top table and used our standard crockery for the rest of the tables.
We decided to start collecting vintage crockery at antique shops and charity shops to provide our own service and we made it more affordable.
We decided that we would need enough for between 100 and 120 as that was likely to be the largest number for a wedding.
A school that we catered events for asked for a couple of afternoon teas from us and liked them so much that they asked if we could supply afternoon tea on vintage crockery for their speech day/prize giving event as a treat for the parents and students at the end of the event. They asked us if we could cater for 170!
This was five years ago and we rushed out to the antique shops, further away from us, to top up our collection to cater for them.
Every year it meant that all the vintage crockery came out for this event and we would replace any breakages to keep the number at 170.
This year we gave the school notice that this would be our last year of catering for the speech day. We have been finding that this is just too big for us. It is stressful and hard work and as it takes place on a Thursday we also have to fit in our corporate lunches as well.
We started at half past six in the morning on Thursday and got back home at half past six in the evening. The following day the washing up took all afternoon. It all has to be washed by hand. We have a system. My husband washes up in our work kitchen and does the cake stands, sandwich plates, tea pots, coffee pots, milk jugs, sugar bowls and silver ware. I wash up in our domestic kitchen and do the trios which consist of matching cup, saucer and side plate.
It takes me as long to those as they all have to be matched up to their sets once more and stored in boxes of 20 trios all different. This means if we have a tea for 20 we pull out one box and for 40 pull out two boxes and so on.
As this is the last year of this event we decided to go through the crockery and get rid of the trios that we like the least. When topping it up to 170 we bought whatever we could get our hands on.
I am taking the overflow to the charity shop so it will have gone full circle. I have reduced the trios to 128.
Last year I took a photo of the crockery on our dining table after I had washed it up. As this is the last year of this number of trios I have taken photos before and after washing it up. It took me four hours to wash it up and another couple of hours to sort through it all and separate out the trios to go to the charity shop.
I have boxed it up with the 20 I like best in the first box then the next best 20 in the next box and so on. This way the prettiest crockery will always go out to the smaller functions.
I am so happy that this is done and that we will never have to do such a large number again. It has been a good event to make buying the crockery worth while and the crockery has paid for itself many times over.
In future though we don’t want to take on anything of this sort of size. Afternoon teas for 50 or under are the ones we like to do. We have a minimum number of 10 and are happy to do those too. We have been averaging nearly one afternoon tea a month for these smaller events which is much more in our comfort zone.
We are not getting any younger and we are trying to make our lives easier. We have stopped doing any hot food, stopped offering to stay and serve at events, stopped taking on any events that are too large and will no longer take on more than one function in a weekend.
We are both feeling so much happier now that we have this last big one out of the way. That washing up alone was daunting where as I don’t mind washing up from the small ones. I just need to make a few trips to the charity shop next week.