High Tea for Mum


With Mother’s Day this Sunday, it got me thinking about something dear to my heart ~ tea. More specifically, High Tea.

High tea became a tradition in our house many, many years ago. There used to be this cute little tea shoppe in the village where you could spend hours relaxing over a pot of tea while nibbling on delicious treats. We once had a surprise birthday party for our daughter there ~ eight seven year-olds dressed up with hats, boas, and gloves. Needless to say, we had a blast, the other patrons? Probably not so much.Β We miss our little Ticky-Boo Tea Shoppe.

One of my favorite ways of treating my mom is to take her to high tea for her birthday orMothers’ Day. This is a picture of us celebrating her birthday at a lovely tea shoppe close to her house. It doesn’t hold the charm of Ticky-Boo, but it comes close.

If you can’t find a tea house or luxe hotel that serves high tea, you can always make it yourself at home. Last year for Mother’s Day my kids made high tea for me, which will always be one of my favorite memories. They made everything from scratch, from the scones to the fancy desserts. It was heavenly.

You might be asking yourself why all the fuss over tea? It’s just a cup of brownish liquid, right? Well, yes, but it is also so much more.

High tea, or a ‘full tea’ as some might want to call it is a meal made up of savory sandwiches, scones, and pastries. There are also ‘cream teas’ or ‘light teas’ that serve just scones and pastries, but by far our favorite here at A Cup of Tea and Sorcery is the full tea.

Usually taken in the afternoon, the tradition started back in the 17th century when women would feel peckish before dinner ~ back then they didn’t eat until 8pm or so. That’s a long time to go between lunch and dinner! Little sandwiches would be brought up to the lady and her friends, which soon turned into a social event.

Can’t find a tea shop or hotel near you that serves high tea? Not to worry! You can always make your own. There are hundreds of books out there that cover recipes, the history, traditions, and etiquette of high tea. Here are a few of my favorites, but don’t feel limited if you can’t find any books the internet is a haven of recipes and ideas.

So, you ask, what does high tea consist of?

The first course of high tea is a selection of sandwiches that range from egg salad with dill, salmon, cucumber with watercress, stilton with pear, or chicken salad. This BBCΒ website has several that look delicious, but a quick google search will find you whatever type of sandwich you desire.

The next course is my favorite ~ scones. As with the sandwiches, you can go crazy with different recipes for scones, but I’m a traditionalist and like mine plain (no currants or seeds), with clotted cream and lemon curd. You can also have jam, whipped cream, or plain old butter for your scones. All of these items are available in your local grocer (except the clotted cream, I have to get that from a specialty store). I’ve made my own lemon curd before and find it’s easier to just buy a jar from the market.

After the scones comes the dessert course. This will be a plate filled with yummy treats like tiny eclairs, lemon bars, chocolate dipped strawberries, cake, or whatever favorite pastries you’d like to serve. Really, there is no right or wrong here! Here’s a recipe for Frosted Lemon Fairy Cakes that I have to try.

In fact, this BBC Good Food site has many recipes for all your high tea needs.

But Tameri, I hear you cry, what about the tea?

Ah, yes. The tea. We can’t have high tea without that, can we? Here again you are unlimited in your choices. You can go for a heavy, dragon oolong or keep it light with white peach tea. If you have a favorite, serve that. You can only find Lipton at the market? That will work just fine. Make sure you offer your guest a choice of milk, honey, sugar, and lemon for their tea. I like mine with a touch of honey, but sometimes I crave a little milk with my Earl Grey.

Over the years I’ve experimented with all kind of teas, loose and bagged. My favorite place to purchase tea is The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. They have a good selection and are always getting new flavors. I just bought a cherry blossom white tea that is light and delicious.

For the best brewing of black teas, I suggest steeping black tea in boiling water for three minutes, a minute and half for green or white teas with the water not quite at a boil.

Presentation is part of the fun of high tea, but if you don’t have the equipment, don’t worry! Just use what you have and get creative. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


So, what do you think? Will you try a high tea at some point? Maybe for Mother’s Day this weekend? What’s your favorite ‘special occasion’ meal?

To all you Moms out there ~ I hope you have a lovely Mother’s Day.


49 thoughts on “High Tea for Mum

  1. I drink tea every day but I’ve never gone for the high tea experience. I’m going to keep a look out next time I’m in town for a little cafe or shop that serves such fancy tea and scones πŸ™‚

    • I’ve got a few books on tea rooms in Britain, I bet I could find one close to you! Whenever I’m in the UK I look for little out of the way tea rooms, they always have the best clotted cream. Yum. I hope you find one close ~ maybe it will become a new writing spot. πŸ˜‰

  2. High Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in victoria British Columbia is an event not to be missed. they have all the bells and whistles and it is an amazing experience.

    • Oh really? I’ll have to put that on my ‘places I must go to’ list! I keep telling my husband we need to see Canada, this just gives me added incentive to make it sooner rather than later. Some of the fancier hotels really do pull out all the stops with High Tea. Thanks for sharing, Louise.

  3. The King Edward Hotel in Toronto has been serving high tea since 1920. They only serve it from Friday to Sunday except in December when it is served every day around a beautiful Christmas tree. The scones melt in your mouth! However, Louise’s suggestion about high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria is the #1 spot in Canada.

    • Definitely try it at home, it’s so much fun. When the kids were little we’d get all dressed up, but now they’re too old for such foolishness (notice I said they were, not me.) πŸ˜‰

  4. It sounds so lovely. Sadly, I can’t picture my two guys trying to prepare small sandwiches and scones, or worry about the correct brew for Mother’s Day. Actually I can picture it, and it’s a mess. They don’t clean up after they cook. I also can’t picture them in a little teashop, trying to sit upright and keep their elbows tucked while they eat the watercress and cucumber sandwiches. Actually, I can picture it, and it makes me laugh.
    I think this year I’ll have them take me to Steamers, where I can have a bowl of gumbo and listen to some jazz.

    • You are so funny! I can picture it too, and you’re right on all accounts. Steamers sounds perfect for you and your guys. If you ever do want to experience high tea, you just give me a call. I don’t really need a reason for high tea, just someone to share it with. πŸ™‚

  5. Lovely post, and lovely to discover your blog! I’ve been to many afternoon teas but have never thought to create my own. In Toronto, my first love is the Windsor Arms afternoon tea, with close seconds at the Kind Edward, Four Seasons, and Fairmont Royal York!

    • Welcome to the blog, Dee! It’s always nice to make new friends.
      That’s two for the King Edward… I really must get to Toronto! You have so many to choose from, lucky you. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a sweet comment.

  6. I have tea every afternoon, I love it! I’ve never officially been to a high tea though. Last week I was looking online for local ones that might be gluten free too. πŸ™‚ The idea of tea and a snack just makes me smile πŸ™‚

    • I love my afternoon tea break. Usually it’s just the tea, but every now and again I’ll have madeleines with some Earl Grey a la Proust. It’s lovely.

      Again, I wish we lived closer! We could go have tea together. Ah, someday…

  7. I love tea! A friend took me to a fancy tea place in Beverly Hills. The atmosphere is gorgeousβ€”like stepping into another time and country. But I have to say, sharing tea with my family and friends at our houses has been the most fun. My favorite was the “novel-tea” we hosted after I finished my first novel. Thanks for the sweet post! Consider me high-tea-time inspired. (Seems like calling my mom “mum” and using a British accent could add lots to the experience. ;))

    • Oooh, Beverly HIlls. That would be a fun place to get high tea. If you remember the name, pass it on to me ~ I’m always looking for new tea rooms.

      I’m in total agreement that while I love the special occasion teas every now and again, I much prefer just hanging out with friends and family having a cuppa.

      A ‘novel-tea’! That’s such a great idea. Definitely call your mom ‘mum’ during high tea. It will make you giggle. πŸ˜‰

  8. We had high tea at a church function a few times. My girlfriend had it for her baby shower, too. I have everything at home to put one on, but never have. I tried to talk Monkey into doing a kid version for a party – or a Mad Hatter version. She wouldn’t go for it. I have crazy fun hats and gloves left over from the fashion shows – what fun the girls could have! Not the same high class affair you are describing. I got lost and wandered off. Sorry. : -| Love your post!

    • What? My sweet Monkey is ambivalent towards tea? I would absolutely LOVE a Mad Hatter tea party. Hmmm, that’s got me thinking now. πŸ˜‰

      We used to have casual ‘high teas’ when the kids were young with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Those were always so much fun. I hope Monkey changes her mind sometime. She and her friends would have so much fun.

  9. Oooooooo – I love high tea! We used to have several tea shops where I live, but they’ve all disappeared over the years. It’s a shame because I usued to love to visit them all.

    Earl Grey tea or lavender and rose petal tea are my favorites.

    I’ve dragged my poor husband to several teas over the years, but he doesn’t get it. He tries to be a good sport, but it’s just not his thing.

    My mom and I; however, went to tea at Disneyland one year, just she and I, both adults, with Mary Poppins. Talk about a special treat! Of course we were surrounded by a dozen little giggly girls in cute foo foo dresses, but it was still special for us. Mary sat herself down at each table and chatted for a little while, then sang for the group. It was awesome!

    Now I must go home and plan a tea for this weekend. Just a little celebration for myself since my mommy passed away a few years ago and I have no children. I’ll make some scones in mom’s honor and polish up the silver tea service. Thanks for the idea!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Aww, you had a bunch of tea rooms and they’re gone? That is so sad. I guess it’s a very niche thing. Still…

      Husbands really don’t get high tea. Even ones that drink tea don’t see the merit in the little sandwiches and frilly pastries. Ah, well. I don’t get sports, so I guess it’s all fair in love and tea. πŸ˜‰

      I love that you and your mom did tea with Mary Poppins! I haven’t had that tea yet, but at Walt Disney World my son and I went to afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian. It was very swanky.

      Enjoy your simple tea party. If I lived closer, I’d come over and share tea with you!

  10. On a trip to London with my mother, I took her to tea at the Ritz Carlton. We can get a little silly when we are together and trying to be respectable in this setting is one of my favorite memories with my mom. We still giggle about it at the most random times. But, I love high tea.
    I have given up my daily coffee for green tea just recently. I don’t like it, but it is good for me.

    • Oooh, really? I have their recipe book and everything looks delicious. I would love to share a cup of tea with you and hear the story of your visit with your mom… sounds positively sinful!

      I’ve got a green tea I really like, can’t think of the name right now, but I’ll send it to you on Twitter. It’s green tea with goji berries, I think from Yogi. The berries give it just a nice touch so it’s not so ‘green’. If you know what I mean.

      • Yep! It’s up there in the picture of books… kind of in the middle. I would love to join you. Tell me the place and time and I’m there. But wait, you’re in China, right? I’d need a days advance notice then. πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Susie! We have a great time at tea. I love all the decorating ideas, but I’m pathetic at throwing together fabulous tablescapes like this. Even if I had all the stuff, I still wouldn’t get it to look this great. But hey, I make a wicked cup of tea! πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Mel! I couldn’t get a clear definition on the differences between the two, so I just went with high tea because that’s what we always call it. I have seen it used almost interchangeably, but now I’ll pay better attention.

  11. Above my classroom desk is the sign, “Where there is tea there is hope.” Yup. I too love high tea. Though I haven’t had it since I lived in Bangkok…and went to a fancy hotel on the Chao Praya River. I think it’s time to take Vivian. Well, not to Bangkok…

    • Best. Sign. Ever. I totally think it’s time to take Vivian to high tea! Did you see the recommendations from Patricia and Louise above? They’re in Canada, but I don’t know how close to you. If you go, snap a pic of your sweet girl enjoying her tea.

  12. What a great post. When I was growing up “having tea” was a big deal at my house. I grew up with scones and “dainties”. Thanks for the great memories. Happy Mum’s Day Tameri!

    • Ahhh, scones and dainties. When I was in England I became addicted to fairy cakes and scones with clotted cream. Just reading the word dainties takes me back there…

      Happy Mum’s Day to you, my friend! Extra big hugs for you this year especially.

  13. I make a mean coconut-lime scone (my own recipe). I had no idea I could use it as part of a high tea πŸ™‚ And what a lovely idea for Mother’s Day! Actually, I know some girlfriends who need an afternoon of fun. I think I might need to host a high tea and then watch one of our favorite BBC movies.

    • Oh my heckness. I need, yes need, to try one of your scones!

      That sounds like such a fun idea ~ your tea and a movie! Something quintessentially British, definitely. If you do, take some snaps!

    • I love your idea of this for moms that work and can’t make it for an early dinner. I say high tea should be an anytime affair!

      I also drink tea daily. I’m trying to go sugar free and have found that I actually like my teas without honey ~ who knew! I can taste all the subtle flavors now. It’s so great. What’s your favorite tea?

      • Vanilla Chai or Constant Comment are probably my current favorites. Constant Comment goes back to my childhood. But I have seldom sipped a tea I did not enjoy. It is a comfort food for me, a personal indulgence which always makes me feel like I am treasuring myself. I received a special pot for brewing tea from dried flower blossoms that regenerate and bloom while brewing. The pot is clear so you can experience visual, scent, and taste pleasure simultaneously, making the ceremony of a cup or pot of tea an event. I love it. There is a ritual in the preparation and consumption that is almost sinful in its pleasures. Enjoy!

      • I’ve seen those flower teas and they are spectacular. That would be such a nice indulgence… I might have to invest in some tea flowers! There absolutely is a ritual and one I enjoy each afternoon. It’s like a quiet moment just for myself to regenerate. Precious.

  14. Ooooh, Tameri, love this post and all those beautiful photos – makes me crave tea and scones! Even though I’m by myself, this sounds like a wonderful way to treat myself! Have a wonderful weekend! ~ Julie xoxox

  15. Sorry I’m seeing this late! You know I actually just bought a book from an antique store, published in the late 1930’s, called “The Sandwich Manual for Professionals”. All about tea sandwiches, and parlor sandwiches, and lunchbox-for-the-men sandwiches and more! We could definitely use that book combined with yours and Rebekah’s tea knowledge to have a high tea. =)

    • Yes! Yes! Yes! Please. I would so love to have tea with you and Rebekah. A book on sandwiches that has listing for sandwiches for men! I love it. I’m going to have to look for that one. I love those old recipe books and ‘manuals’. They have the most intriguing ingredients…

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