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Silva family loves having people over for tea

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Silva family loves having people over for tea

Silver Teapot owners Bill and Marion Silva pour some cinnamon spice tea while daughter and manager Heidi looks on.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED March 31, 2012 12:36 a.m.

It’s all about bonnets and boas and strainers and spoons.

And for the Silvas – Marion, Heidi and Bill – it’s more than just a nod to their British roots.

It’s a chance to share a little slice of their heritage with customers looking for an authentic experience in a fun and friendly environment. It allows guests to partake in English traditions that most have never seen before.

Now in its seventh year, The Silver Teapot – tucked away on Maple Street in Downtown Manteca – is one of only a handful of tearooms left in the region after a rash of closures shut down others.

Subsequently they’ve found themselves to be in high demand with customers booking parties months in advance and coming from as far away as Bakersfield to enjoy the quaint, family atmosphere that they worked hard to create.

“I liked having people over for tea, so I thought maybe we could do this professionally rather than just having people come over to the house,” said Marion Silva. “I love to have tea every day.”

While the concept of British high tea has changed – originally a designated feast complete with breads, meat pies and cheeses served at the end of the day – the spirit is still encapsulated in what the Silva family provides with their most popular service.

Scones, miniature sandwiches, assorted miniature desserts and a cheese and cracker plate accompany a choice of tea from a wide selection for those who choose the high tea option.

It isn’t uncommon, Heidi Silva says, to see ladies dress up with ornate hats and decorative scarves when they come in to enhance the overall experience.

And when the official celebration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – honoring the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the post of Monarch – takes place in June, the atmosphere will likely be lively and elegant like it was when they broadcasted the Royal Wedding last year.

The real focus for the family, however, will just be providing what it is the customers want.

“The thing that I love the most is seeing customers leave with a smile on their face,” Heidi Silva said. “We have some regular customers that are like family – they come in and we talk and it’s great. But when we get people that haven’t been here before and they leave happy – that’s the greatest feeling.”

No standard tea bags served

Bill Silva pulls the lid off a tea container and pulls out a unique looking tea bag – constructed of what appears to be an almost metallic mesh with large chunky leaves inside.

It’s a far cry from the standard tea bags that most people get at the grocery store, and that’s exactly what he’s going for.

“With a lot of those regular tea bags what you get is the dust from the bottom of the where the leaves settle,” he said. “With this you don’t get that. You can see the leaves in here, and that adds more flavor to the tea.”

When it comes to tea, the Silva family is very particular about what it is that they serve and how it is that they serve it.

And for some that takes a little bit of getting used to.

One of the things on each of the tables that some newcomers to the tea scene might not recognize is a small, metallic object with a crescent moon shape – something that almost always elicits an inquiry because of its singular use.

But the object – a tea strainer – plays a pivotal role in keeping the large tea leaves from contaminating anything after steeping in the hot water. The style of tea that requires the strainer packs more flavor than the regular tea bags people are used to using.

And it’s not the only object on the table that puzzles people when they sit down.

A small silver bar raised several inches off of the table serves as a knife holder to prevent a used butter-knife – often used on scones – from staining tablecloths.

With imported soups and scones and a full assortment of tea-related gifts – tea is by far the most popular seller while the strainers, when available, are hot as well – are there for customers to browse.

JASON CAMPBELL

209 staff reporter

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