Revising Afternoon Tea

Tiered cake stands, white linen, dainty sweets and bone china teapots are well-worn symbols of Afternoon Tea, – the popular, more formal approach to serving a cuppa. To that end, hotels and other venues have dreamed up all kinds of themed afternoon teas – the edible garden, Asian-inspired and ultra chic!

Afternoon Tea is often erroneously called “High Tea”, a name which originally defined the meal that was served at a high (dining) table close to the supper hour. In fact in Britain, the term “tea” is often used for this meal. Afternoon Tea was first taken in the boudoir (by women) at a low table and was the meal that punctuated the space between lunch and supper. Since it’s early popularity in the mid-eighteen hundreds it has developed its own rules of etiquette, which I won’t go into here. In fact I’m all for breaking the rules surrounding Afternoon Tea, insofar as the preciousness of its presentation and the correctness of its consumption is concerned.

I suggest that it is possible to reposition Afternoon Tea as an at-home pause whether alone or with friends. Why not deconstruct the formal tea and create your own version? Key elements of équipement and cuisine could be incorporated, such as a tray, tea vessel, drinking cup, small tastes of simple but fine foods and a very good tea.

Today's afternoon tea: Tray - vintage Danish teak, early 19th century tea bowl with saucer, 1950's tea carafe, yellow 1940's tea linen, silver tea spoon, 2013 Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong and a savoury tasting plate

Fresh goat cheese sprinkled with matcha (green tea powder)

As the mercury sat at -10°C and snow fell in the garden, I assembled a tasting plate from whatever I could find in my fridge – a simple and unpretentious offering: clockwise, starting at the bottom of the plate – avocado pieces, fresca goat cheese sprinkled with matcha, meyer lemon wedges, warm toasts, cucumber, kalamata olives and air-dried golden grape tomatoes, all dribbled with 2013 extra virgin olive oil. For the tea, I chose eco cha’s 2013 Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong from Taiwan. Its floral fragrance was modulated with flavours of conifer – perfect for the late-winter day.

You probably noticed there were no sweets here – quite unlike the rich buttery fare that we are used to. I love sweets, but hadn’t any in the house, so went with savoury instead. It was delicious and the goat cheese was rich and creamy as to coat the palette. My next venture with “Afternoon Tea” will include some tasty confections. Any ideas for the cake menu?

Related posts:
  1. High Style: A Fashionable History of Tea
  2. Tea Al fresco Part 2
  3. Tea, Stories and Food Pairing
  4. The Jellification of Tea
  5. Tea-Infused Korean Sweet Mochi



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  • Lu Ann

    I have to say that this sounds (and looks) delicious. I like the idea of no sweets added here. Usually tea and cheese does it for me and sometimes the typical cucumber tea sandwiches. I’m definitely going to add olives to my platter now! I also have the

    Shan Lin Xi High Mountain tea from EcoCha mentioned but haven’t dug into it yet! This may be the perfect opportunity to :)

  • theteastylist

    I like tea and cheese too Lu Ann! In this case the Oolong works well with the savoury as would many green teas. Some black teas would be happy with creamy sweets. It is just nice to keep things simple without all the frills, etc. Although I love traditional Afternoon Tea (esp. with Prosecco!). I will do a few more posts on this topic.

  • Nicole Martin

    What a beautiful setting! I love the vintage linen and teaware. Matcha is not something I would have thought of sprinkling on cheese but I will definitely have to give it a try.

  • theteastylist

    Thanks Nicole! I’m a sucker for vintage dishes, so I probably have too many, but I do use them. I’ve been finding so many ways to enjoy matcha these days and the added benefit is the ‘lift’ that it gives.

  • FlockofTeaCosy

    What style. And high fives for tips on making afternoon tea one’s own and modern — thanks!

  • theteastylist

    Thanks FlockofTeaCosy! The traditional afternoon tea will be around for a long time, but it is fun to work with what you have to create something new and modern.

  • Yulia Kolomiytseva

    Totally agreed with FlockofTeaCosy – such style, and looks so delicious, decadent yet healthy – actually embodying the exact essence of what tea is about in my opinion. Very inspirational Linda! X

  • theteastylist

    Just saw your comment Yulia! Happy to hear you are inspired – we can give afternoon tea our own signature – no rules to follow…