Tea is not just a drink. ‘Afternoon Tea’ is quite possibly the finest meal in the world.
‘High Tea’ and ‘Afternoon Tea’
In some traditional establishments gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie – and in emergency may be able to borrow suitable items from the hotel itself. After all, teatime is an extremely refined occasion. ‘Afternoon Tea’ is still celebrated stylishly in many London hotels such as Claridge’s and the Ritz. It can also be enjoyed here in Germany, for instance at the Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt, the Schlosshotel Kronberg or the George Hotel in Hamburg.
In the West, the culture of tea drinking is strongly influenced by the British tradition of ‘teatime’. However, we need to differentiate here between ‘High Tea’ and ‘Afternoon Tea’. Traditional ‘High Tea’ takes place at the dining table at the end of a working day and may include bread, cold meat, cheese, eggs or, in fact, almost any hot or cold dishes. It is an early evening meal washed down by a reviving cup (or two) of tea. ‘Afternoon Tea’ on the other hand is a more elaborate and sophisticated affair. It takes place between about three and five o’ clock in the afternoon. Here you sit at a low table, which is why it is sometimes also known as ‘Low Tea’.
- Etageres from:
- 1 Bitossi Home
- 2 Fink
- 3 Koziol
- 4 ASA Selection
- 5 Meissen
Let’s take a closer look now at what you’d expect to be served if you were invited to a high-class British ‘Afternoon Tea’. An array of sweet and savoury delicacies are likely to be stylishly arranged on space-saving etageres. Smaller versions have two tiers and larger ones may have three or four circular tiers that become smaller the higher you go. With some etageres, you can remove the individual plates, which makes them easier to refill. Others are simply whisked away from the table by the handle. A typical teatime menu would start with small triangular sandwiches filled with cucumber, salmon, cress or egg. Then would come scones with whipped cream and jam. And to finish, there would often be a dessert, perhaps a strawberry-lemon Battenberg cake or ginger biscuits.
Elegance at home
But you don’t have to go to a hotel to enjoy an outstanding teatime experience. You can have even more pleasure creating your own ‘Afternoon Tea’ and playing with this classic British occasion.
The first question you need to answer, though, is: which is the right tea service? Wedgwood and Portmeirion offer wonderful services for a traditional table setting. However, if you want to celebrate your tea party with a more contemporary design, manufacturers such as Rosenthal and Lladró offer a range of beautiful product ideas. Browse around and discover a wealth of inspirations! One essential detail for an authentically British ‘Afternoon Tea’ is a small jug for the milk. The proper etiquette is for people to add their own milk after the tea has been poured, never before.
- Tea service from:
- 1 Portmeirion
- 2 Wedgwood
- 3 Rosenthal
- 4 Lladró
- 5 Richard Ginori
In terms of decorations, the range of possible options is endless. Fragrant David Austin roses set off a romantic tea service very well, whereas a heliconia would be the perfect complement to a simple modern design. But we have a word of warning here: flowers with too strong a scent may detract from the enjoyment of the high-quality tea!
The right tea for the right mood
The traditional type of tea to serve at ‘Afternoon Tea’ is black tea, of which there are several varieties: Assam tea from India has a lot of body. Darjeeling, also from India, is an aromatic tea. Earl Grey is a tea blend flavoured with the addition of oil of bergamot and is named after a 19th century British prime minister. Lapsang souchong, on the other hand, is a tea from China with a smoky flavour and is normally taken without milk.
Natalia Panne from the English Tea Shop recommends an English Breakfast Tea or an Earl Grey for a proper ‘Afternoon Tea’. Both go extremely well with cakes and pastries. As with other meals, the right combination of beverage and food is very important. For instance, the delicate flavour of a white tea would be overpowered by a scone with whipped cream.
- Tea cups from:
- 1 Maxwell Williams
- 2 Loveramics
- 3 Po Selected
- 4 Zens Lifestyle
Going solo is fine, too
There are often not enough hours in our busy days to prepare a lavish tea for guests – but that’s no reason to forego this very stylish pleasure. A quite marvellous selection of tea cups with inbuilt strainers give plenty of room for the loose tea leaves to release their flavour. A small lid ensures that the tea does not cool down too quickly. They are ideal for making a nice cup of tea at work when e-mails and phone calls try to prevent tea lovers from enjoying the really important things in life.