Saturday, August 03, 2013

High Tea - the Perfect Celebration, Annie West

High Tea, anyone? Today I thought I'd share with you one of my recent favourite things - the joys of a glamorous high tea. 

I'd heard of high tea for some time but was never quite sure what it entailed. Did it mean simply sitting around over a tea pot and cucumber sandwiches? Do high teas even include cucumber sandwiches? And what if you're not a fan of tea? If coffee is more your style or something else? 

Annie at Claridges high tea, London
What if you don't like to eat between meals? Why bother with high tea? The answer of course, is that high tea is a meal in itself, or can be, when done right.

The first thing to say is that high tea is meant to be something special. After all, how many of us usually fit in time simply to sit and relax with friends for a couple of hours during a busy day? Most of us are too busy for that, so there's a real luxury element in simply taking time out for a bit of pampering, because that's what high tea is - pleasure and pampering.

Second, if you've never indulged in this way before then aim to go somewhere that really knows what they're doing. I had the opportunity to have high tea at the gorgeous and rather exclusive Claridges Hotel in London and I have to say, the staff there definitely know what they're doing! And the marvellous location made the event a real celebration. In fact, the afternoon I spent there inspired the final scene for a recent story: 'Captive in the Spotlight'. I knew some hands on research over high tea would be worthwhile! My hero swept his heroine off her feet in the public rooms where tea is being served, uncaring of their intrigued audience. Sigh. I love that scene. This photo gives you an idea of the setting.

Luxurious Claridges interior, London
So, high tea... What is it? Basically it's a long, enjoyable afternoon tea, preferably with wait staff to provide you with whatever you need. Some start with a glass of champagne - which really ensures you're not going to do anything else productive for the rest of the afternoon!

Our high tea in London began with the choice of tea from a huge menu. We each choose different varieties and received our own teapot. And yes, we could have chosen coffee. The service was amazing. The staff didn't hover so we always felt we had a lovely private afternoon tea, but not once did I get to pour my own tea. Whenever it was time for a top up the waitress would arrive to do it for me. The teapot was refreshed with hot water and just as I thought I'd reached my fill, a fresh pot was brought. High tea isn't something to be rushed, you understand, the aim is to relax and enjoy the company (and refreshments). 

The food was fantastic - a variety of sandwiches including cucumber, of course, Scottish smoked salmon, ham from Yorkshire (the best apparently) and others. Then came scones - plain and fruit, with jam made on the premises and lovely cream. The jam was made from Marco Polo tea! It tasted fruity and delicious. Then there was the serious business of desserts. A whole rack of them - delicate, rich and absolutely decadent. Though we hadn't eaten for hours before, we had to decline whenever the staff offered to bring more food - there was just too much and it was all delicious.

High Tea at home for a celebration
I've had high teas since in a number of places and all have followed a similar theme. All were a treat and such fun. We even put on a help-yourself high tea at home for a recent celebration. Here's our effort complete with sandwiches, various cake varieties, scones and chocolates.

I've also had high tea in a mountain resort shrouded with mist on the sort of wintry day when you want to be cosy and snug inside. It was a special family celebration. Another high tea was in an old and slightly run down guesthouse where the smiles were warm and the home cooking more than made up for the slightly lumpy sofas. But perhaps the reason I've enjoyed each one is the fact it's been a special occasion with special people. I think that's the key to enjoying high tea and the reason I believe we should have more of them!

Have you had high tea? What did you think? Was it as good as you'd hoped? Or if not high tea, what's your favorite celebration meal? I admit I'm a big fan of a leisurely brunch too, especially if it's outdoors. 

Share your thoughts and be in the running to win a copy of IMPRISONED BY A VOW, my August release out now. If you love passionate romances and with lots of emotion, this is one for you. I'll draw a winner at random from those who comment - just check back at the end of the day to see who won.

Annie's latest release, IMPRISONED BY A VOW, is available now from your favorite bookstores. It's about a woman who marries a stranger as a means of escape, only to find she's bound to him in more ways than she bargained for. If you enjoy a sexy, intense romance with a touch of glamour, Leila and Joss's story is one for you. Here are links to grab a copy from The Book Depository (free postage anywhere), Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes and Noble. You can read an excerpt on Annie's website.

All photographs in this post are copyright to Annie West.


EilisFlynn said...

In a time of fast food living, the entire experience of high tea reminds me that food should be savored; company should be enjoyed; and life is too short to be wasted with food you only tolerate. Thanks for the reminder!

Annie West said...

Hi Eilis,

You're so right about savouring good food and good company. Both are such a treat, aren't they? This high tea at Claridges was a very special experience that made me appreciate both.

Mary Preston said...

Growing up, afternoon tea at my Grandmother's was always a high tea. For a child it was like something you'd expect in Alice in Wonderland. All the delicacies you could possibly want, or imagine. The grown-ups would sit around the table. We children were given a plate piled with goodies to take away to enjoy out on the wide verandah. Everyone lingered. I loved Sunday afternoons at my Grandmother's for so many reasons.

Susanne Bellamy said...

The company you keep really makes these celebrations special. I've only been to one high tea, at Versace resort as a special side trip from a conference last year. Your photos brought it to mind again, the miniature sweet treats, the savoury mouthfuls, the never-ending cups of tea or coffee. And you know what, now you've got me thinking that life's too short not to indulge with friends once in a while. I'm going to make a date for next month and try high tea in Brisbane!

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, now I'm hungry! what fabulous photos. Love that one of you sitting in front of the table. I love high tea. I've had a few in my time - including a delicious chocolate one that was very memorable. Chocolate and champagne make a pretty good double! I think my favorite high tea was one I had back in 1985 at Harrod's. I'm sure they still do it - must check out next time I'm over there. The room was lovely, the food was great and, as you say, the company really puts the icing on the MANY cakes! Love that scene in Captive in the Spotlight! So romantic!

Annie West said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie West said...

Susanne, I'm thrilled to think I've inspired you to enjoy a high tea indulgence with friends soon. They are such a treat, aren't they? High tea at Versace would have been lovely. Just sitting enjoying a coffee there was an experience.

Annie West said...

Anna, I can imagine you having a chocolate and champagne high tea. It sounds right up your alley. Actually, that's what my children gave me for my birthday - it was a wonderful surprise treat.

As for Harrods - maybe one day. I've heard wonderful things about the Dorchester and the Savoy too, but imagine having high tea at the Ritz! I'm smiling just at the thought of it. Though I think the best thing about these celebrations, as Susanne mentioned, is the company.

Annie West said...

Mary, what wonderful memories! It sounds like your Grandmother knew a thing or two about laying on a spread! I used to love getting a plate of goodies at things like that. The grownups always were so busy talking that we children could be left to enjoy ourselves, and the food!

PJ Ausdenmore said...

Hi Annie! That looks - and sounds - like an incredibly lovely experience. I've never had high tea. The closest I've come to that type of leisurely, indulgent atmosphere was probably a dinner I had with my late husband and another couple many years ago. It was a six course dinner served over a four hour time period. We were encouraged to savor each course and take as long as we wanted to enjoy the experience. The restaurant was located in an old house along the Gulf of Mexico, decorated to surround diners with the feeling of old French elegance. That was back in the 70's and I can still visualize each wonderful moment of that evening. I guess they succeeded in giving us a memorable experience!

Jo's Daughter said...

I have not been anywhere "fancy" for a high tea. Not too long ago I had a high tea with my mom, but it was at the garden cafe, which is in the middle of the local gardencentre. It was lovely but not spectacular. You can see a picture of it here, at my blog :

Sometimes I make my own high tea, different tea flavors and some homebaked goodies. Sharing those with special people is wonderful. Your high tea is completely different though & you have made me curious with the Marco Polo jam Annie! I might search the web for a recipe :)

Kim said...

I have never participated in a high tea, but if dessert is involved, I'm all for it. Not only do I like chocolate, but I also love eclairs, cream puffs, etc. I'm not sure about the cucumber sandwiches, though. Don't cucumbers taste better in a salad? :)

Connie said...

The closest I’ve been to a tea like this was on a cruise. The service and the tea were perfect. There were a couple little sandwiches, scones and jam and a few little pastries. However, the selection wasn’t anywhere near as large as the one you had. Everything looked delicious and I wish I could have been with you. Enjoy!

Maureen said...

I have never been to a high tea before but I think I would enjoy going to one. Our daughter graduated college this year and we celebrated with a huge barbeque which is one of my favorite ways to celebrate.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I'm not a tea drinker.. but I've always loved the idea of a high tea with all those lovely little bits of delicious food.

Annie West said...

Hi PJ,
That dinner of yours sounds magnificent! The Gulf of Mexico sounds very exotic to me for a start. I'm boggling a little at 6 courses but over four hours and in good company it would be marvellous, I'm sure. No wonder you can remember it still so well now. What a treat!

Annie West said...

Hi Jo's daughter. What lovely photos! It sounds like you had a wonderful day out with your Mother, despite the heat. I sometimes go with my parents for afternoon tea at a local garden centre and it's always a treat. One of the best bits is to stroll, looking at the new plants, afterwards.

The Marco Polo jam was fascinating. Truly, I thought it was a fruit jam. I was intrigued as I come from a family of jam makers. If you find a recipe, do let me know!

Annie West said...

Kim, you've never had a cucumber sandwich? If you enjoy eating them then yes, the sandwich is definitely worth trying. Just fresh white bread, butter, cucumber and seasoning. Don't hide the flavour with anything else. They taste fresh and lovely.

Ah, I'm sure you'd enjoy the sweet treats on the high tea table. Eclairs - yum. Aren't they amazing?

Annie West said...

Hi Girlygirlhoosier.
At the few high teas I've been to coffee and soft drinks have been offered as an alternative to tea. Or there's a glass of bubbly as another, more decadent option.

Annie West said...

Connie, I've heard so many stories about wonderful food and services on cruises. It's not something I've tried except for one inland cruise which was marvellous but all buffet service. It sounds like fun!

Annie West said...

Maureen, what a great way to celebrate such a special occasion. I bet it was fun. There's nothing quite like a BBQ when the weather is warm, is there? And though there's preparation to do before the event, I love the fact the cooking happens outside!

Beautiful Disaster said...

What a great experience for you. I would love to be a part of an high tea. I enjoy drinking tea and all the yummy foods and great company sound like a very nice way to spend ones day.
Thanks :-)

Di said...

I've never had a real High Tea - there's a Hilton Hotel about a hald hour away that is supposed to have a good one. Had a lovely regular tea with scones, raspberry jam with real clotted cream at a farm in Devon when I visited England years ago - that was yummy!

Pat Cochran said...

Our high school sponsored a girls' drill
corps which was named for the dean of
women. Each year the dean honored the
corps' graduating seniors with a tea
held in her home. It was an absolutely
gorgeous occasion, I'll be honest and
tell you I had never been in such a
beautiful setting. It was a best dress,
hat and white gloves event. I was so
proud to be a member of the Carlton
Cadettes on that day!

Annie West said...

Hi Lori,

Maybe you could have high tea with friends one day. Even if you don't make it to an upmarket hotel, you could do your own. It needn't be lavish but maybe a treat or two.

Annie West said...

Di, you mentioned the magic words - clotted cream! Wow! Isn't it amazing? So much better than plain whipped cream. As for raspberry jam - if it's home made in particular it's delicious. Thanks for sharing.

Annie West said...

Pat, what a great experience! There's something memorable about making the effort to do something out of the ordinary, isn't there? How lovely that the experience has stuck with you since then.

Lisa W said...

I have never had high tea before but my Mom has had a few and has thoroughly enjoyed them. My Mom also hopes to open a tea room when she retires so in a way it was also research for her.

As for my favourite meal that would have to be our annual Canada Day celebration. Each year we have around 50 friends and family over for a potluck BBQ and even more show up for the fireworks. We all have a great time relaxing and catching up with people that we don't get to that often.

Annie West said...

Hi Lisa,

How cool that your mother gets to check out high tea ready for her own enterprise! My parents in law used to talk about opening a tea room but never got to it.

Your big Canada day celebration sounds marvellous and BBQs are such a relaxed way to get together, aren't they?

Annie West said...

Hi everyone,

I have to pop out and by the time I return the next post will be up. I'll stop by again for a chat as I've been enjoying hearing about celebration meals. In the meantime I thought I'd better announce a winner for my book.


If you send your postal address to me at annie(at)annie-west(dot)com I'll send you a copy of IMPRISONED BY A VOW.

erin said...

That sounds like a lot of fun :) Definitely wish the US had more customs like that ;) Thanks for sharing!