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. 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 BBC 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.