I hope your holidays were restful, joyful, and filled with an abundance of family and tea.
The other day I was feeling homesick for my Notting Hill address and inspired by the premiere of Downton Abbey’s fourth season at the same time, so I decided to have cream tea in my living room.
Cream tea is simply a pot of your choice of tea, scones, clotted cream, lemon curd, and jam. I usually brew an afternoon black tea blend for cream or afternoon tea. Just to clarify: afternoon tea is cream tea plus finger sandwiches (cucumber, chicken salad, ham, egg salad, etc) and smaller sweets like macaroons or tiny cookies. Afternoon tea generally takes place between about 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (the afternoon) but I’ve had reservations as early as 1 p.m. As for cream tea, I’ve had it throughout the day in London cafes, so it’s a bit more flexible and informal.
One of my current favorite black teas is Harney & Son’s Hot Cinnamon Spice. This time I tried it with some milk. Usually I refrain from adding anything to this tea because it has a much sweeter taste than a traditional afternoon blend, but I’m one for experimentation and I do recommend it as long as it is given a chance on its own first. Please, do not go anywhere near this blend with sugar. Thanks.
I referred to the scone recipe from Rick Rodgers’ Tea and Cookies. It was simple to follow and helpful with tips! I think my scones could be a bit thicker/fluffier– probably to do with how much I patted the dough down before I cut out the scones. Also, the little black dots are not raisins– they are currants (think mini raisin) and can be found in the same aisle.
This was not the only tea adventure I had over my holiday–of course I had to get out and explore another tea room!
After Christmas I went to Chadds Ford, PA with my dad for some afternoon tea at Special Teas Tea Room. Before we grabbed our finger sandwiches, we ordered two bowls of steaming, savory, creamy butternut squash soup to taunt our taste buds (and to be honest this was both our breakfast and lunch, let alone afternoon tea). Needless to say, we were starving.
We shared two pots of tea: a traditional afternoon black tea blend and a Christmas blend with cinnamon undertones. This was a very relaxing place to have tea, the service was timely and the staff was very friendly. I recommend staying a few minutes before you leave to browse their gift shop… they have lots of UK products.
After experiencing a few afternoon teas since I’ve returned from London, I do tend to compare them. Anyone can describe the mechanics of an afternoon tea: tea, scones, two or three spreads for the scones, finger sandwiches, tiny sweets, etc. But presentation, taste, service, tea and table ware, and atmosphere are what really defines and differentiates place A’s afternoon tea from place B’s afternoon tea.
Presentation: Are the cups clean? How about the silverware? Is everything neat and in its proper place? Is it aesthetically pleasing?
Taste: How does everything taste? Sweet? Salty? Hearty? Do you like the tea?
Service: Have you been served in a timely fashion? Too slow? Rushed? Is the staff friendly?
Tea and table ware: Does the tea ware clash or compliment each other? Is it an eyesore or does the contrast work?
Atmosphere: Would you come here again? How were the other customers?
Some places are more formal and chic with glass teapots, while some like to mix and match china for a homey feel. To each his own. It really all comes down to a good quality tea and good company.