Santa Clara will play host to a time-traveling fantasy world, with the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition at the Hyatt Regency from March 25-27. Why not visit the convention and take your tea travels in a whole new direction with a Jules Verne/Steampunk theme? Jules Verne was the first real science fiction author, who wrote a collection of novels during the 19th century featuring hot-air balloons, airplanes, dirigibles, steam-powered machines and other cutting-edge technology of the Victorian era, with speculations about how these gadgets would affect the world. His ideas became the foundation for both the traditional science fiction genre and an off-shoot – Victorian science fiction – called “steampunk.” The Silicon Valley is one result of people acting on ideas like his, and it can be a lot of fun to combine Victorian aesthetics with modern technology in your home decor, or even just in a really great tea party.
While “steampunk” was originally a literary genre, it now encompasses not only historical-science fiction novels, but costume, architecture, art, music, and many other aspects of modern life. Steampunk is basically Victorian science fiction, with steam power (as well as water power, wind power and manpower) as the driving force behind the machinery and conveniences of life, combined with the rejection of mass-produced consumer goods in favor of custom-made, hand-tooled, and elaborate tools, clothing, furniture, etc. with individual personality. Steampunk narratives almost always include an element of “alternate reality”, as the world is imagined as it might have been if clockworks and steam power were still major sources of energy, and the Victorian Industrial Revolution was still happening.
Tea, being the beverage most associated with the Victorian era, is the appropriate beverage for all ages in the Steampunk world. Beverages at a Steampunk Tea should include English, Asian, or Chinese-style teas, but can also include popular Victorian alcoholic drinks such as port, rum and whiskey. You can even purchase steampunk-themed flavored tea blends, like Steampunk Airship and Back To The Lab blends from Adagio Teas.
Verne was a Frenchman, so French country food, as well as delicate pastries, should definitely have a place on the table. Verne’s novels feature many “exotic” countries, whose cultures can be studied for other food and decor ideas; these countries include Africa, the United States, Pacific Islands, Australia, and Russia. The menu could include rooibos from S. Africa, dim sum from China and curry from India, for example. The Victorian era was also a time of intense experimentation and the development of food science, resulting in “scientific” and “health food” like Graham flour, corn flakes and “patent” foods. All these are options for the steampunk table.
If you have a garden or greenhouse, you could hold your tea outside, or you could set up a Victorian library or parlor atmosphere inside, in imitation of those rooms in Verne’s family home in Nantes. Whether you dress in your Victorian finest for the Steampunk Exhibition in Santa Clara, or entertain some friends at home with a Steampunk Tea, you’ll be sure to have a fun time doing something that is definitely out of the ordinary!
Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.
For more information:
Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition, March 25-27, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara, CA
The Works of Jules Verne
“Bienvenue a la maison Jules Verne: A Walk through the House”
“Crash course in Steampunk”
“Google doodle marks writer Jules Verne’s birthday”
“Jules Verne” Wikipedia article
“Steampunk” Wikipedia article
Local steampunk club St. Clair Aeronauts’ Steampunk Tea Party
“Steampunk: An Overview” slideshow by Jeff Vandermeer
“Da Vinci Automata”
The Steampunk Tribune