I love tea. Black teas, green teas, herbal teas – there’s almost always a cup of tea just within reach on my desk or side table. I will choose tea over other drinks, even in the summer. I love tea.
My mother says my first high tea was at 4 years old. I was all dressed up and loving every minute of it at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in the Philippines. What little girl wouldn’t love her own fancy tea party, where the adults had to play along? Apparently I was delighted by the “penguin” waiters (eek). I was even allowed to bring my special friend, Alfredo. He was served tea, and I shared my cakes with him as any good friend should, even if he was a blue and white stuffed plush rabbit. My mother says I served him with “pomp and circumstance” and begged for weeks to go back after that day.
I was very lucky to have high tea now and then during my childhood – for my birthday or for events when all the ladies in my family would go out together. I still love high tea. It’s such a treat with tiny sandwiches, savory bites, and other itty bitty sweet delights. My favourites are anything with smoked salmon and of course, scones with cream and jam.
Last Saturday, I was invited to a very special Jane Austen High Tea to celebrate the wonderful Carolanne’s upcoming wedding. Our hostess Leslie is a tea genius who she entrusted us with her gorgeous tea pots and fine tea cups. Aren’t they beautiful? I can’t remember the last time I drank tea out of a painted china cup with a saucer.
Leslie also made a variety of special sandwiches, many of them rolled, lemon tarts, date squares, I’m sure I’m leaving something out! She thought of every detail from delicate lace table clothes, chargers and stands to display the sandwiches and cakes, she made keepsake Jane Austen bookmarks and glass framed picture ornaments for the guests.
Everyone brought a little something to add to the table – cupcakes, mousse tarts, custard tarts, strawberries, Japanese cheesecake, candies, lemon shortbread and scones…the list goes on! The bride-to-be, Carolanne made a salted honey pie that was deeeeelicious. It was a lovely afternoon celebrating with friends and meeting new ones.
I’ve never thought of hosting a tea – or been part of one outside of a restaurant. It was so much fun and really special for all the effort that was put into the event.
Finding a good high tea is hard these days – some of the places we used to go when I was young are still around, some are not quite as good as they once were. BlogTO recently wrote up a post on the “Best Afternoon Tea in Toronto” listing some spots. I’ve tried several on the list, such as the King Edward, Windsor Arms, the Royal York, the Old Mill, Moroco, the Park Hyatt, and the old Four Seasons Hotel, but not some of the newer ones. Next on my list to try are Taylor’s Tea Room in Hamilton, Serendipity Tea House in Burlington and the Shangri-la and Ritz’s offerings.
My favorite new option isn’t on the BlogTO list- it’s the Kitten and the Bear. They don’t have tea sandwiches, but I promise you won’t miss them once you have one (or more) of their scones! The shop is tiny with only two tables, which isn’t really a problem because wouldn’t you rather
gorge enjoy your scones where no one will notice how much clotted cream and jam you slather on? Did I mention they make their own jams too?
On two separate occasions, a friend and I bought a scone bundle to enjoy for breakfast when she was in town. The first time, we enjoyed a dozen scones over 4 days and tried three different jams – lime marmalade, plum and rose and an apricot and seabuckthorn, which was my favourite. The second time we split a dozen and she carefully ferried hers back to Calgary. They weren’t quite ready when we arrived at the shop to pick them up, but we were more than happy to sit and relax in the window seat…each eating a scone with blackberry fennel jam. Mmmmmmm!
Their scone bundles are a great option for hosting your own high tea (if you must share). The ones pictured above are the minis – you should see the regular size ones!
Back at the Jane Austen tea for a moment – I mentioned to Leslie that I couldn’t imagine collecting little tea cups, as pretty as they are, I like a hefty mug myself and those delicate tea cups take up quite a bit of space. Well, Leslie had a solution for my
half-hearted “protest”. She showed us a little trick that had me thinking that I might just have enough room for a set of my own special tea cups! Maybe you do too?
I feel another tea party coming on soon…