Forget the cucumber:
Afternoon tea gets a modern makeover
If there’s one ceremony that has truly stood the test of time and rooted its charm into the heart of British culture, it’s afternoon tea.
Born in 1840, in the boudoir of Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, a pleasing pause for tea soon became a fashionable social event – and we are yet to tire of it.
Each generation has stamped its own identity on the occasion and today’s flavours are ready to write their own chapter in the development of the afternoon tea.
Here’s our inspiration for a contemporary take on our favourite extra meal of the day.
Modernity calls for a clean, crisp setting and a pared-down aesthetic, to put the food centre stage.
The metallic trend continues to sound the strongest note in interior style – and it’s perfect for warming up whites and textures.
Set the ambience with woody scented candles and strikingly architectural flowers, providing depth and dimension and throwing the vibrant colours of your tea and food into a clean contrast.
That’s not to say the traditional use of the best china should be ousted. In fact, the most important part of a tea party is often the very china we sip it from.
Throw all preconceived notions of cucumber sandwiches and scones out of the window – a 21st century tea must be paired with appropriately fresh ingredients.
As with wine, the abundance of tea variations means it offers great fun with flavour matching. And, of course, using exotic tea as an ingredient in food is still inspiring chefs and diners alike.
For sweet treats
Geoffrey Smeddle, of the Peat Inn, in Fife, has a raspberry and lavender crème brulée, which will pair beautifully with a rich oolong.
Today it’s all about the matcha, that delicate fine-powdered green tea. Matcha is made from whole leaves, reduced to a fine powder, making it perfect for adding to antioxidant-rich muffins (we love Teapig’s matcha blueberry white chocolate muffins) or perhaps a sticky green matcha fudge.
African fruit Baobab is widely tipped to be the superfood of 2016. Available via Ocado in powder form, why not try Malcolm Riley’s silky cheesecake recipe suggestion, published in the Telegraph.
For savoury nibbles
Thoughtfully-flavoured bites using minimal ingredients are a perfect match for tea aromas. For example, roasted lemon and tarragon chicken pairs beautifully with the smoky aromas of a Lapsang Souchon.
Simple mouthfuls of ceviche of sea bass or tuna tartare with an iced Jasmine tea are an inventive take on traditional smoked salmon.
The humble quiche is a perennial tea-time favourite – but it takes on a whole new twist when paired with today’s Middle Eastern flavours. Experiment with this crustless spinach and feta quiche with sumac by Maureen Abood’s mouthwatering Lebanese blog Rose Water and Orange Blossoms.
As well as pairing your tea with your ingredients, you can further reinvent traditional brews by creating your very own mixes.
To take tea to the next level, opt for loose leaves. That way, the full flavours of the leaves can be savoured as they’re truly meant to be. You’ll be surprised how a few simple herbs, flowers or spices can create the most impressive potful.
To start you off, here are two very different concoctions for teapots loaded with taste.
Rose In The Devil’s Garden
The dark robust flavour of the black tea mingles perfectly with the delicate floral aromas from the rose petals. Invite your guests to add honey to taste.
- 2 parts rose petals
- 1 part black tea
Mix the rose petals and black tea and place one teaspoon of tea per serving in a strainer, such as our Daisy Tea Story tea strainer. Pour 250ml boiling water over the tea and allow to steep for no more than five minutes before serving.
Frothy Matcha Latte
Creamy, frothy and delicious – while also being good for you. Check out this recipe from the whole food connoisseurs at Nutrition Stripped, which blends matcha with coconut milk and a drizzle of honey to taste.