Thursday, 26 March 2009

High tea

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, first conceived of the brilliant idea to partake in afternoon tea having proclaimed, much as I do, that she had a 'sinking feeling' between lunch and dinner.

High tea is a decidedly English occasion in my mind: a time to sip freshly brewed leaves from delicate porcelain cups and to savour the comforting flavours of small, elegant cakes with one's favourite ladies. A vintage treat.

So what could possibly more appealing - or apt - for my birthday celebrations? This year I didn't plan anything much in advance so it was a small 'do', just Kate, Liz and me.

We went to the Charlotte Street Hotel in central London - a boutique hotel. In London you can have tea in grander places like the Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, but we chose somewhere more intimate. We even had a glass of champagne with our tea. It was such a lovely time - it is all too rare to have the time to while away an afternoon in such leisurely fashion.

Here are some photos from the day!

They brought us these miniature ice cream cones at the end - so sweet!

If you would like to prepare high tea for your friends then here are a few things to get you on your way. The first is a book recommendation 'Afternoon Tea Parties' by Susannah Blake.

A beautiful book with all sorts of high tea menus - from baby showers to gentleman's tea! A beautiful book brimming with ideas. Go on, get out your china (the more mismatched the better) and treat your girls!

Here is a recipe for the primary ingredient: scones, to get you started!

225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter
25g/1oz caster sugar
150ml/5fl oz milk

1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. Mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter.
3. Stir in the sugar and then the milk to get a soft dough.
4. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up.
5. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.
6. Cool on a wire rack and serve with butter and good jam and maybe some clotted cream.


Pearl said...

Oh Vanessa - Happy birthday! You looked lovely, as always :).

Tea sounds like such a wonderful pasttime; I wish such things were "traditional" in the United States, too :)

Katie said...

i love this, and i love afternoon tea! and i can't believe it was your birthday and i didn't know - happy happy (belated) birthday xxx

Nadia said...

Happy Birthday!! Tea sounded lovely. I remember when I lived in England we would have tea parties every thursday. I just loved it!

Sara said...

Happy birthday! This looks like so much fun. I love doing tea, I haven't had it in ages.

Esme said...

Vanessa-Happy Birthday-High Tea what a great celebration.

The Adventuresome Road to Where? said...

Happy Belated Birthday! The treats look fantastic! Yuummm

Pearl said...

Hi Vanessa! Thanks for the incredibly sweet comment about my writing. It means SO much, especially since it comes from an amazing, provocative writer like you.

Thank you for sharing that information about pomegranates and the Jewish culture! I had no idea - and that sounds so neat and very interesting! I love learning about new cultures and traditions, so I really do appreciate you telling me that :). you have a pomegranate sculpture? is it a sculpture of a pomegranate or a sculpture somehow made from a pomegranate? Haha it's probably the former, but I just wanted some clarification :).

I named it the "Fatal Fruit" because Persephone (in ancient Greek mythology) was condemned to spend four months per year on her throne beside Hades after she ate four of the arils. Thus, her mother is incredibly devastated during those four months and the earth is cold and nothing grows during those months (winter). So fascinating for how they explained it!

Hope to read more of your lovely posts, too!

You know, I'm so glad that I started blogging, but also sad, too. I've met incredible people (like you, namely) that make me wish that I knew them in real life. :)

jesse said...

Oh mah lord, you are SO gorgeous! Why haven't we seen more pictures of you before? WHY??

Err, sorry if I sounded stalkerish... ^_^ Those mini fruit tarts are sooo pretty! Looks like you had a blast... happy belated birthday dear!

emlizalmo said...

I could really use some high tea celebrations around here. It sounds like the perfect addition to ANY day. Happy birthday to you Vanessa. It looks like it was great! You are wonderful.