Sweet, Savory, and Sublime


story by Gwendolyn Whiston McMurry | Photo by Jim Prisching

The most influential woman in the history of tea and tea occasions in England was probably Catherine De Braganza of Portugal. In the 1660s, Catherine married King Charles II of England and carried a chest of teas to England. The Portuguese priests had been introduced to teas in China, where teas dated back to the 16th century. When Catherine introduced teas to the British hierarchy, they soon became part of the daily refreshment.

The most quintessential of English customs, Afternoon Tea began when Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, took tea at about 4 p.m. to bridge the long gap between lunch and dinner. This became a daily habit, which later became a social occasion when inviting friends and the ladies of the court to join her. Then in the late 1880s, upper class and society ladies would change into long gowns, gloves, and hats for the tea served in the drawing room. In warmer weather the teas would be served on the terrace or in the gardens.

The classic tea menu consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (created by the Earl of Sandwich … yes, really). Cucumber and watercress is a popular sandwich. Then add the biscuits or scones with clotted cream or Devonshire cream and preserves, along with cakes, tarts, and pastries. Different style tea events can be created to enhance any occasion, such as for mother-daughter, bridal, or simply enjoying quality time with friends.

Classic Low Tea

A late morning or Breakfast Tea would serve biscuits, muffins, and scones. An Afternoon Tea, usually served between 3–4 p.m. is referred to as a Low Tea referencing the fact ladies sat on settee and parlor chairs served from a low tea table. The Low Tea usually included scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, and sweet delights.

Our Menu

An assortment of charming sweets and tarts, along with ham and cheese, and spinach and goat cheese croissants from Ambrosia Euro-American Patisserie. The china pattern is Royal Albert Petit Point China.

High Tea

The High Tea is usually an early evening tea. This could include meat pies, cheese, as well as the selection of sweets and savories. This was referred to as a High Tea because it was served at a buffet or dining table, higher than the low tea tables in a sitting room. The teas were a celebration of friendship and hospitality. This High Tea is themed as bridal.

Our Menu

A close-up of Walnut Cookies is shown on the top tier for this bridal High Tea. Black Forest Cookies sit aside the tea service. Three Apricot Jammies adorn the pale green plate. A pink glass plate showcases Sweetheart and Rosemary Lemon Shortbreads. On the second tier, You Are A Peach Cookies (left) sit aside Raspberry Jammies. Above, Almond Moon Cookies and Blackberry Jammies complete an assortment of sweets, which along with savories, are available at Jennie and Vera’s Sweets + Savories.

Royal High Tea

The Royal Tea is a High Tea with an abundance of delights from savories to sweets. A glass of Champagne is served before tea and then the savories are followed by the sweets, ending with a glass of sherry. When creating your own Tea, the ambiance is important. Make it memorable with a beautiful setting, attractive bone china cups, and fine porcelain tea pots, as well as metal silver tea pots. The food items should be plentiful, but in small bite-size pieces. Food should be fresh and attractive. The selection of teas should also be rich in flavor and served with cream, lemon slices, fruit preserves, and clotted creams. Clotted cream is essential to the Royal High Tea. It can be purchased or made at home.

Our Menu

Heinen’s was our source for two wines, Fonseca Porto and Schramsburg Blanc de Blanc, along with a variety of foods. Savory grilled vegetable goat cheese wraps offered something filling. Sweets include colorful frosted chocolate cupcakes, chocolate chip rugelach, and apricot kolachke. The china atop the silver service (above, and left) is Schumman’s Vienna Rose. A close-up (above, right) is of Schumman’s Emperors Dresden Flowers pattern delights.