Afternoon Tea is cool again

14 Jan

Haven’t you heard?

That’s right, afternoon tea is back in vogue.

It’s no longer for old fuddy duddies or Ladies Who Lunch.

Afternoon Tea technically never really went out of fashion, it’s just that people didn’t really have the time or the patience to spend the afternoon talking over freshly baked pastries, scones, tarts and hot tea and coffee.

Afternoon Tea had resurged in popularity as many people find it’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, meet up with the girls for an afternoon of gossiping and laughs or even as the theme of your bridal or baby shower. Why not throw one for your friends next weekend? Tell them it was my idea.

The big ritzy hotels in almost every city on earth offer fancypants Afternoon Teas complete with waiters in cute little gloves, brandishing fancy little tongs with which to serve up your scones and cookies.

Now there is a difference between afternoon tea and grabbing a quick afternoon snack. High Tea generally takes place at around 3pm in the afternoon. So what separates afternoon tea from a Quarter Pounder at McDonalds at 3pm? It’s the ritual, the tradition and the food.

Wherever you go, High Tea will always comprise the same basic rituals, foods and traditions.

It is usually set in sumptuous surroundings, whether that be a beautiful rose garden, an elegant ballroom in a hotel or a stately library in a beautiful home. A cozy living room will do the trick, as will a patio or deck during the summer months. To be frank, it doesn’t really matter where you do it, I mean, I’ve had afternoon tea on a cruise ship in the middle of the South Pacific, as long as the spaces gives off a certain feel of luxury, quiet and elegance.

Before you even consider the idea of throwing an impromptu afternoon tea gathering, make sure you have all the good stuff. A decent teapot (no Lipton tea bags hanging over the side of mugs, thankyou very much!), little serving jugs for milk and cream, a tiered goody serving thing or some really noice plate thingies to put yer grub on. No mugs. Nobody wants to pretend to be sophisticated whilst nibbling on cucumber sandwiches and sipping tea from your Dreamworld Tasmanian Devil mug. Okay?

Every afternoon tea will consist of scones, cookies, baked pastries, tea sandwiches, tarts, cakes and of course, lots of cups of perfectly brewed tea! Remeber, when considered what you’re going to make for your high tea, make sure it can be held with two fingers and isn’t too messy. This probably isn’t the right time to be showing off your skewering skills with satay chicken or serving up a hearty pudding. Keep it simple, keep it nibbly.

We’ve already talked about scones, so I’m assuming you’ve figured out how to make a decent batch. If not, drop everything, turn this computer off and get in the kitchen. Scones are the staple of afternoon tea, without it, afternoon tea is a fraud, kind of like the TomKat marriage.

Scones are best served warm, split in half and spread with lovely tarty jam and clotted cream. If you pull out that whipped stuff in a can, you’re going straight to hell. Don’t stop, don’t collect $200.

Buy some loose-leaf tea and learn how to make it correctly. The last thing you want is to invite all your people over and pour out some dirty dishwater into their teacups. Trust me, I’ve been there.

In my humble opinion, the sandwiches are the best part of afternoon tea. So many different varieties, all so deliciously scrumptious.

The general rule is to allow about 4-6 sandwich servings for each guest. Any more than that and you’ll be rolling them out the door with a wheelbarrow.

The whole idea behind the success of tea sandwiches is to get some good white bread. This isn’t the time for an Aldi 99c loaf of white. Go for the posh bread (you know, the one you buy when you know people are coming over, so you can display it prominently on your bench and hope they think you’re posh!) and DON’T, listen to me, DON’T use them bum ends. Who the hell eats those anyway? They’re the mould gates as far as I’m concerned.

Now I’ve done my research on tea sandwiches, aren’t you lucky. First of all, NO CRUSTS. But the trick is to cut the crusts off after you’ve filled the sandwich. Lop off the ends with a nice sharp knife- this keeps it all neat and good looking like the pictures you’ve drooled over seen.

I’ve also read that no matter what you are slapping in the middle of them, the bread slices should always be buttered. And that’s unsalted butter. If making in advance, the secret to avoid soggy bread is to spread the butter right to the ends of the bread. Don’t know if that’s true, that’s your homework.

Now if you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you know that you don’t just serve up a big fricken sandwich. These sandwiches are little. When they’re made, cut them in half diagonally. And then again.

Some interesting (and traditional) fillings for tea sandwiches:

  • Chicken Curry (chicken breast, celery, mayo, curry powder)
  • Cucumber (cucumber, der, alfalfa sprouts)
  • Egg (Hard boiled eggs, mayo, chopped dill)
  • Smoked Salmon (slices of smoked salmon, minced onion, capers, mayo, cucumber, dill)
  • Tuna and Cucumber (tuna flakes, diced cucumber, mayo and finely diced red onion)
  • Ham and Mustard (slices of honey leg ham with a lovely Dijon or wholegrain mustard, maybe even a slice of cheese)
  • Chicken and avocado (Cooked, diced chicken breast, mixed with mayo and avocado until a gluggy delicious mess)

Next, let’s focus on the sweets. Here, your options are endless.

Cookies are a great start. Choc-chip, lemon cookies, orange nut cookies, shortbreads, anything delicate and delectable is spot-on for a great afternoon tea.

Muffins and cupcakes are easy to buy if you can’t be arsed making them yourself. And they look so cool on those tiered tray thingies. Just make sure they’re decorated with all those pretty little things on top and you’ll be right.

Slices, mini – cakes, trifles, carrot cake, sponge cake, fruit cake, you name it, it’s on the table.

There you have it. Afternoon tea- yet another excuse to have another meal in the day!

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Posted by on January 14, 2007 in General, Inspiration


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