Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Perfect Afternoon Tea?

I love to enjoy a nice afternoon tea once in a while. In the Netherlands it's mostly called 'High Tea' and apparently we are not the only country who does that.
Also the Lonely Planet wrote an article about the worlds best high tea's.

On this website I found an extensive explanation about the history of English afternoon tea, which is really interesting to read.
I never really realised that this English tradition is spread around the world and you can have excellent afternoon teas in many places. Definitely an extra activity for future culinary travels.

It's actually pretty popular to enjoy an afternoon tea, especially by women. Between 14.00 and 17.00 you will see a lot of women meet each other in a nice tea- or lunchroom, even on weekdays. Some places are so popular you have to make reservations way ahead! 
But what makes it so appealing? And what makes a perfect afternoon tea?
I decided to do some research.

In the last few years I have tried lots of them in different cafes and restaurants. Through all these experiences I became a bit of an afternoon tea critic. And although there were some really good afternoon tea's with perfect tea, food and service (like The Ritz in London).  There were also a lot less authentic experiences where either the food and tea were good but the service was bad.  Or the food was not suitable for a tea; like little lamb kebab with yoghurt or soup. And countless of afternoon teas where the food was not homemade and cheap tea bags were served…
It's so simple! And not even that expensive.  

This is not what you like to get served as tea during an afternoon tea

A perfect afternoon tea definitely has to include good quality loose leaf tea!
And with that I mean tea leaves served in a tea infuser. Preferably from different tea producing countries to choose from (Argentina is one I did not know).
Unfortunately I seldom get this served during an afternoon tea.
Most of the time it's just regular tea bags L
That's so disappointing, why would anyone want to drink regular (in the Netherlands we drink a lot of the Pickwick brand) teabags when they can have that at home or work all the time?

Besides good quality tea I also think unlimited tea should be included in the price.
It's crazy to pay a lot of money for an afternoon tea and then only be served one pot or cup.

Then on to the food; typically it consists of: sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries.  
For me that's perfect. Sometimes you get served soup and/ or a salad first. But that just doesn't blend with tea and has nothing to do with a traditional afternoon tea but more with a normal lunch. Although savoury snacks are not always included, a little quiche is a good balance for all the sweet stuff. They should be served with the sandwiches; savoury before sweet! 

Popular sandwich fillings are egg-salad, smoked salmon and cucumber. Although some variety is seen here with carpaccio, tasty (Cheddar) cheese or chickenbreast chutney-like fillings.  
The bread is traditionally white, thinly sliced, and buttered. The crust is cut away cleanly from the sandwich after the sandwich has been prepared, but before serving.
I prefer to taste different flavours of  'finger sandwiches' also known as 'tea sandwiches'. Those are just small portions of normal sandwiches.

Finger sandwiches, on different bread,  served at Ritz Hotel, London
Then on to the one item that makes or breaks the perfect afternoon tea; scones with jam and clotted cream! Without freshly baked scones accompanied by jam or lemon curd and clotted cream it's not the real thing. The Cornish clotted cream served in the Ritz Hotel was as thick as butter :- ). Unfortunately that kind of clotted cream is hard to find in the Netherlands. You can substitute with whipped double cream mixed with mascarpone. (Note to Dutch readers: some of the large Jumbo supermarkets do have clotted cream in their assortment!) 

And to finish the tea sweet pastries and cakes are served.  Whatever these are, from cakes to chocolates, 
I always really appreciate it if this part is also home made. Although some things can be perfectly bought at a good quality patissier or chocolatier. Lately I also see some delicious macarons and mini cupcakes in this part. 
Maybe not traditional,  but certainly makes it an extra festive moment, is serving a glass of Champagne or other sparkling wine at the start of an afternoon tea.

Any suggestions for a nice place to try an excellent afternoon tea, anywhere in the world, are always welcome; please leave a comment! 
Recipes to make a perfect afternoon tea at home follow in future blog posts.

Cookbook recommendation: 
* The Ritz London book of Afternoon Tea Including a great collection of their recipes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Laat een berichtje achter