Sunday, May 24, 2015

Do have a Spot of Tea.

RHYS BOWEN: As you know I am currently in England and one of the things I look forward to most when I am here is teatime. To me it is the perfect civilized meal--a welcome break at the time when tiredness hits. Everything prepared in advance so plenty of time to sit, chat and enjoy.. You can have it at the Ritz for fifty five pounds or at a country cafe for five. In someone's home or even out on the lawn on fine summer days when strawberries and cream may be added.

  The white tablecloth set with the best bone china. Tiny sandwiches containing smoked salmon or cucumber or egg and cress followed by my favorite part of the meal--freshly baked scones with cream and strawberry jam.  Since I'm down in Cornwall at the moment the cream is real clotted cream--as thick and yellow as butter. A big dollop on top of a warm scone and I'm in heaven.

The meal is finished with cake--either slices of a big cake, a Victoria sponge or a rich fruit cake, or little cakes of various sorts--ranging from simple rock buns to petit fours.  And of course there is the tea. Always loose leaf made with boiling water in a pot. It can be strong and black, served with milk ans sugar. It can be milder and scented as in Earl Grey. It can be one of the China teas, fragrant and spicy--Oolong, Keemun, Lapsang Sushong. These are always served with lemon instead of milk.

A small point of interest. None of the above is called HIGH TEA. This is afternoon tea. High tea is a meal that combines teatime with some elements of supper--cold ham, cold scotch eggs etc. It is in place of supper when one has to go to a theater, perhaps, or the servants have an evening off. (If you happen to have servants, of course).

At Malice Domestic convention we had a tea to celebrate Agatha Christie's one hundred and fiftieth birthday. It was a lot of fun and we all tucked in....

Except Hank. This was her tea.

Now you know why she stays so fabulously slim.
So tell me, gentle readers... are you big fans of tea as a meal? Any favorite sandwiches or cakes?


  1. What a marvelous idea to have a tea to celebrate Agatha Christie's birthday.
    I always use loose tea leaves to make tea and am particularly fond of Earl Grey tea, scones, and lemon bars.
    Here's the recipe for the lemon bars:
    Lemon Bars

    To make the crust, combine in large bowl
    one cup soft unsalted sweet butter
    one-half cup powdered sugar
    one-eighth teaspoon freshly-ground Himalayan pink salt
    two cups flour
    Press into bottom of 9 X 13 pan

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees; bake fifteen to twenty minutes, or until lightly browned
    Remove from oven, lover oven temperature to 325 degrees

    Make filling while crust bakes so filling is ready when crust comes out of the oven
    To make the lemon filling, whisk together
    four beaten eggs
    one cup granulated sugar
    one-fourth cup flour
    one-eighth teaspoon freshly-ground Himalayan pink salt
    two teaspoons fresh lemon zest
    three-fourths cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
    one-fourth cup milk

    Pour lemon filling over hot crust
    Bake at 325 degrees for twenty minutes or until filling is just set
    Remove from oven; cool on wire rack
    When cool, dust generously with confectioner’s sugar
    Cut into squares to serve

  2. We did an afternoon tea as our SinC chapter Christmas party last year at a hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. The scones were amazing.

  3. Delicious Joan! and what fun Mary!

    My hub and I used to go to a B and B in Chatham MA for big occasions. Our entire schedule was built around the tea. They had hundreds of teapots decorating the room and a big menu of teas.

    My absolute fave thing was the scones with cream and jam.

  4. Thanks for clarifying the meaning of High Tea. This term is misused so often by Americans who should know better!

  5. Thanks for clarifying the meaning of High Tea. This term is misused so often by Americans who should know better!

  6. Regarding afternoon tea, had the best ever scones at The White Hart in Salisbury, sigh. Second best are the ones at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

    When I was about nine, our tiny little town got a branch library, a big improvement on the book mobile. My mother took me there, introduced me to Miss Marie Ohlhausen, and said I could read anything I liked, no restrictions!

    Miss Marie didn't quite approve, so she pointed me toward Agatha Christie. No racy language, no (shudder) sex, just ripping good tales. I fell in love, and have never fallen out

    Happy birthday Miss Christie.nn

  7. I love a good English tea. There's a lovely (if pricey) afternoon tea here in Boston at the Taj (once the Ritz Carleton across from the Public Garden). And we once enjoyed scone and clotted cream in Bath. The jam was amazing. But boy can you pack away the calories indulging and that *extra* meal, so I sympathize with Hank's water cracker.

    Joan, when we were in Peru we visited a salt mine (actually they were irrigated flats that relied on the sun to evaporate natural mineral water) where they "made" pink salt. Wish I'd gotten some.

  8. Thank you, Rhys, how delightful! Oh, I think it's the British jam/marmalade that makes the scones so wonderful... Our U.S. jams are too sweet, in my humble opinion....

  9. I agree with Susan. Too sweet and that's mostly what most of our jams taste like: sugar.

  10. Oh, you are too funny. I just burst out laughing. And that was a lovely tea.

    Can we vote on Earl Gray, though? Are you pro or con?


  11. Susan, I agree about American jams. I much prefer British, especially marmalade--although I like strawberry with my scones and clotted cream:-)

    My first proper afternoon tea was at the Grosvenor Hotel in London--with my parents on my very first visit to England. I've had many since, including the Ritz (not my fave), and Brown's Hotel (made famous by Dame Agatha as Bertram's.) But my favorite was the Basil Street Hotel near Harrod's in Knightsbridge. Tea was served in a very relaxed first floor (2nd floor in US) lounge. The tea and food were fabulous, as was the service, and you felt comfortable reading a newspaper (provided, of course.) Alas, the Basil Street is gone, replaced by something much more chic--and expensive.

    Hank, I'm a yes on the Earl Gray!

  12. I'm not a big fan of Earl Grey. I like Darjeeling and some China teas.

  13. Love tea so much -- one of the things I am looking forward to when I am in London for two weeks next month! I was in Cornwall several years ago with two daughters -- what a place! I live in Falmouth, MA so we stayed in the original Falmouth.

    I often host teas -- as you say, it is a lovely arrangement and variety of foods in a relaxed setting. I like the savory sandwiches best.

    L<3ved this post.

  14. BTW, Hallie -- Boston Public Library does a wonderful afternoon tea.

  15. Love having afternoon tea. My friends and I try to find a lovely spot wherever we travel. In London, we did the Ritz but have experienced tea in various cities in the U. s. And Canada. Deborah, I agree heartily about English marmalade - a real favorite of mine.

  16. Afternoon tea is wonderful. I don't care for Earl Grey at all.
    It just tastes strange. And smoked salmon does bad things to me. So none of those sandwiches for me, thank you.

  17. Yes, I'm not a fan of Earl Gray at ALL. It has what, bergamot? Yuck. I remember the first time i had it--I thought there was something wrong with the water.

  18. I just love the whole idea of the English tea. I've only ever had one proper one, years ago at a hotel in Atlanta. It's one of the experiences that I look forward to most whenever I finally take my England trip. I am not sure about the clotted cream, but I will have to give it a go, as the Cornwall area is one place I most want to visit.

    Thanks for explaining the difference in regular tea and high tea, Rhys. With the regular tea, my favorite sandwiches would be cucumber and salmon. Just about all the sweets appeal to me. I am really looking forward to a proper English scone.

    The tea at Malice must have been a lot of fun. Hank, I'm just going to assume you didn't feel well and had to have a cracker.

    Joan, I will have to try making your delicious-sounding lemon bars. I adore lemon treats.

    Oh, and I do like Earl Grey tea.

  19. Back many years ago, I went to the UK with my mother. We went to the theatre for a matinee. They had the option of ordering tea for intermission. And it was brought to my seat! Absolute heaven!
    No such thing existed (to my knowledge) when I went back 5 years later.
    There had also been a shift from loose leaf tea to tea bags.
    Progress? Phooey!

  20. Hank, if that really was your tea, you get a do-over. Now I want to find a fancy tea shop . . . but coffee and Girl Scout cookies will have to do for now. ;-)

  21. Although I live in Fort Worth, Texas, we celebrate all Royal events with a tea. Last week we welcomed Princess Charlotte (who unfortunately was unable to attend) with scones, meringues, tiny sandwiches and other goodies, including proper tea made in a proper teapot. Friends and family look forward to the celebrations. We're thinking that the next one could be for Prince Harry's Wedding??

  22. I am definitely pro Earl Grey. I prefer to make my own jam, but there's that time factor. Although my bread maker has a jam setting that makes things much easier.

  23. Oh gosh. A memory just broke loose. My husband and I went to Tobago several years ago. We made reservations for tea at a hotel with a big open patio where you could observe all kinds of birds. This place is famous for this event. I had to laugh. We were given cups of hot water with tea bags and a couple of slices of nut bread. Birds would join you for the crumbs. Not exactly the afternoon tea I had hoped for.

  24. I live in the high desert of Northern Nevada. I don't think Nevadans even had a 'regular tea time'. (sigh)
    I like Earl Grey. I like marmalade.
    Is American jam really too sweet?

    I just bought "Murphy's Law" and plan to have tea all by myself and read the whole thing in one sitting.

  25. The Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin occasionally shows a period film on Saturday with Afternoon Tea included. Three teas and three tea treats are served to you on the long, narrow table in front of all the seats in the theatre. Tea is provide by Zhi Tea, a local tea shop. The next event is in June with "Austenland" as the feature. Very enjoyable.

    I'm very definitely pro Earl Grey, though I do drink more green tea these days.