Making money out of high tea

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2012

How to make the perfect cuppa

Halina Smith Vintage Tea
CUPPA: Halina Smith shows off some of the Vintage Tea collection.

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Two Wellington women love having high teas so much they've turned throwing tea parties into a full time job.

Tea drinkers and professional china collectors Halina Smith and Katherine Jourdain found the perfect reason for their husbands to excuse them expanding their extensive china collections. 

The best friends and mums to three children each started the china hire company Vintage Tea last year.

They provide tea sets, tiered cake plates, vintage linen and cute antique silver cutlery for functions. They even do the washing up afterwards. 

Events they have decked out in the delicate charm of hand painted china include baby showers, bridal showers, weddings and birthdays. 

Baby showers are their most common jobs. Working with caterers, they choose finger food and china to match colour themes - often pink and yellow for girl babies, blue and green for boys.

They have also provided china to a photo shoot for bridal wear designer Sophie Voon, and to brighten up some corporate events.

''We've done a lot of 60th, 30th and surprisingly 21st birthday parties and also weddings. It's just so cool to be a small part of those special moments in people's lives,'' Smith said.

''A few people who have hired us have had high tea parties at home just for the fun of it.''

The pair's shared fondness for the ritual and indulgence of high teas turned into a full time job after Smith's sister in England suggested she capitalise on the growing trend. 

''We had been to a whole bunch of high teas because we just love it. I was speaking to my sister in England and when she asked what I'd done for my birthday I said a high tea. She said it's really huge over there and if I love it that much I should go for it,'' Smith said. 

They did some research and discovered that while companies with a similar concept operated out of Auckland and Christchurch, no one was doing it in Wellington. 

The dozens of cup, saucer and side plate sets Vintage Tea owns have come from relatives overseas, and from fossicking through New Zealand's second hand shops.

They know almost every op shop in the country, having cleaned most of them out of their prettiest teacups. 

''Broad Bay China shop - is that the one that's absolutely chocka full and it has an upstairs and downstairs. We just bought a beautiful set the other day from the little antique shop at the top of Tinakori Rd which was Royal Albert china - we're getting better at recognising the different brands and times when things were made.''

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Customers pay a bond to cover any breakages but so far, only two pieces had been damaged.

Smith admitted that most of the time she and Jourdain were the ones breaking china while washing up. 

''It's the best job - it's not difficult at all, it's a real joy.''

- The Dominion Post

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