VISTA — Several years ago realtor Barbara Barker sold all her rental properties and built a tea garden where visitors could relax and reenergize in a natural setting.Her inspiration came from the late Brett Bravo, author of “Crystal Healing Secrets,” who was also Barker’s friend and mentor.“Whatever was wrong with you, she could heal,” Barker explained. “She wanted to create an Emerald City that would be a retreat where healers would congregate and work on people.”
Barker promised Bravo before she passed away that she would meditate and give some thought to her concept.
In 2003 she came across the property that would become Memories English Tea Garden.
“I waited a long time to find it and when I stepped on the land I said, ‘This is it — this is my healing garden,’” she said.
Before opening, Barker spent a year building a fence and converting a rundown house into a caretakers cottage that would also have a sunroom and classroom.
She also planted lavender fields, rose gardens, vegetable gardens and more.
Finally, in 2004, Memories English Tea Garden debuted.
Barker asked for a $10 donation from each guest that would be earmarked for international outreach programs benefitting clean water and world hunger projects as well as the locally based Alpha Project.
In turn, each guest would experience a magical afternoon beginning with Queen Elizabeth’s signature English Tea served in china cups and saucers complemented by finger sandwiches made with cucumbers and scones with wild blueberries that grow in the garden.
Barker’s specialty is a savory potato scone topped with sundried tomato and pesto using a variety of homegrown vegetables such as chard and kale.
Barker also serves her own chocolate truffles as well as pineapple cake with guava sauce using natural sugar from white sapote, a tropical fruiting tree on her property that has been compared in flavor to the peach, pear and even vanilla flan.
Following the tea, Barker leads a class on a variety of topics ranging from learning how to prepare and present an afternoon tea to the healing benefits of chocolate and sachet making.
Art teachers are also invited to use the gardens for their classes beneath the large shade trees.
There is a cutting garden on the property with French and English lavender, which are used to make potpourri.
During winter months Barker takes her tea party to private homes and community clubhouses.
“A lot of women have their own beautiful china, but don’t know what to do with it,” Barker explained. “I show them what pieces they need to use then serve the food on their china and do the dishes afterwards by hand — that’s part of the deal.”
Last year June Austin was a guest at Memories English Tea Garden.
“It’s just a fun thing to do,” she said. “I am intrigued by Barbara’s imagination including the garden and what she put together for us. She’s a wonderful cook and her scones were fantastic. We made a sachet and talked about teas around the world.”
A few months later during winter months Austin turned the tables and invited Barker to hold a tea in the clubhouse at Pacifica in Oceanside where she lives. Barker will do so for a minimum of 10 guests.
“There were a lot of people,” Austin remembered. “Some people brought their own cups and dressed up and some didn’t. Barbara made gluten-free scones for those who wanted them. We had people from South Africa and they loved it. We would do it again.”
Barker says she is also the beneficiary of rewards that result from hosting her garden teas.
“When adding value to the lives of others we are multiplying our own joy and our own peace,” she explained.
“The minute I step foot in the garden I feel better, no matter what happens in the day, even if I go there to weed. I like the workout and I like being out of doors.”
At noon July 20 Barker will host an English tea at her gardens for the public that includes a class on herbs. Hot and iced English and herbal teas will be served as well as finger sandwiches, scones and desserts. To make a reservation, call (760) 945-0476.