High Time for High Tea
by Paris Permenter and John Bigley
After a day of busy sightseeing, nothing is more romantic than to slow the pace. While there's always happy hour, another choice--and a more nutritious one--is High Tea.
"Tea started in the 1840s and it is mainly found in England," explains Gavin Webster, Food and Beverage Manager of The Montague on the Gardens, a romantic London property directly across from the British Museum. "It's not just what you're serving -- it's what it's all about that makes high tea special."
What it's all about for lovers is the opportunity to unwind and reflect on the day -- and the coming evening-- in a civilized way. The event begins with tea, served in a pot that's preheated to stay warm. Varieties may range from Ceylon to jasmine tea.
Tea is typically served with sugar cubes; both tea and sugar were once the mark of wealth. "They said that sugar and tea were two riches that were savored because they were so expensive," explains The Montague's food and beverage manager as he serves high tea in a small solarium just off the lobby.
Along with tea comes a tea stand, a silver multi-tiered tray which holds finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones. Traditionally the lower level holds the small cucumber or salmon sandwiches. "Sandwiches are kept simply and rarely layered," notes Webster. "The idea of the high tea is not really to fill yourself up; it's to chat."
Rising a level in the elegant tea stand, guests can partake of delicate sweet breads and pastries before reaching the crowning glory: scones. Served tucked beneath a protective scone warmer, the fresh breads are served with clotted cream and raspberry jam.
And although high tea began as a little afternoon sustenance because of late night dining, today's high tea has evolved into a elegant interlude. The Montague offers an intimate solarium tucked just off the lobby. And although the mini-meal is offered year around, cold weather means the perfect time for a spot of tea and a quiet, cozy conversation. Pouring another cup of steaming tea as a slow drizzle looms over London, Webster sums it up: "During winter, people like to get away from the cold and have tea."
The Montague's Basic Scone Recipe
225g self rising flour
30g castor sugar (you may need to substitute superfine sugar)
pinch of salt
30g frozen butter, cut into small dice
140ml - 150ml cold milk
1 beaten egg
a little milk
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius/ 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the flour, sugar, salt in a processor and mix. Add the butter and work again until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the milk in a thin stream through the feeder tube, stopping as soon as the dough forms a ball. It should be moist but not sticking to the sides. If it is too dry, simply add some more milk; if too wet, add a little more flour. Turn out onto a heavily floured surface, form into a ball and than gently press into a 2 cm thick round. Cut out and brush with the glaze. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes and cool slightly on a rack. Serve with butter, clotted cream and a selection of preserves.
About The Authors:
Husband and wife team Paris Permenter and John Bigley have authored over 20 guidebooks
and also edit the FREE Lovetripper.com, a romantic travel magazine featuring worldwide destinations.
Copyright Paris Permenter and John Bigley
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