How to: High Tea

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Etiquette and deportment is high on the agenda this Spring with a resurgence of the high tea phenomenon. As the daughter of a confessed tea-a-holic I have been to a fair few high teas in my time. It has become quite the obsession for my mum and it seems the more she goes the more she wants to go. The mother of elocution, June Dally-Watkins says high tea is very much ‘back in fashion’ which is music to mum’s ears (and a scone to her lips).

With the perfect backdrop, an old weatherboard cottage in Yarramalong, the scene is set for mum to indulge her absolute fantasy, to host a high tea of her very own.  With invitations sent (albeit by Facebook) and numbers confirmed the date is set for the biggest event to come to Yarramolong since the Annual Scarecrow Show*.

*Yes this event is real and takes place between the 24th August – 8th September, 2013 and I must say, it’s quite the extravaganza

The preparation

In the lead up mum has been busying herself in the garden pruning, watering and planting in preparation for the big day. As an avid collector of fine china I’m pretty sure she has this covered; however being the first high tea ever hosted in the street, nothing will be left to chance. This calls for a few extra special, exquisite pieces specially chosen for the big event. The pieces that come to mind worthy of such an occasion are from those who have the business down to a fine (china) art – Wedgwood and Royal Albert.

 The china

June Dally-Watkins certainly knows her stuff “the only way high tea can be presented is on a double layer stand”. Whilst this is a good start there are still a number of accompaniments (and no I’m not talking about the sweet stuff but we’ll get there soon) you need to consider. The teapot, teacups and saucers, sugar bowl, creamer, cake plates and forks all play their part. If you’re anything like my mum you’ll lean towards floral and probably keep within the green and pink spectrum, thankfully Royal Albert has this covered. For those a little more daring, Wedgwood and Noritake offer more contemporary patterns and bold colours. Try the Harlequin Polka Dot range from Wedgwood or for something completely different, Noritakes’ Carnivale range is playful and bright, the perfect way to reign in Spring.

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Pictured from left to right: Noritake Carnivale Cake Plate, Wedgwood Harlequin Polka Dot Sugar & Creamer, Wedgwood Tea Caddy in Darjeeling and Noritake Carnivale Espresso Cup & Saucer

The menu

The last but definitely not the least important part is the menu. Smoked Salmon and cucumber sandwiches, egg mayonnaise and watercress fingers and mini quiches to start. Followed by ultimate scones with a double helping of jam and cream. Lastly the lemon tartlets are not to be missed and throw in mini chocolate mousse for good measure.

The Tea

For those who like a smooth and light blend there will be Orange pekoe, for those after a more delicate blend opt for Darjeeling, the traditionalist in the group can’t go past Earl Grey and for the adventurous ones there is Russian Caravan*.

*Russian Caravan derives its name and flavour from the 16 month caravan journey the barrels of tea use to take. And the smoky flavour? From the campfires it was stored at

So whatever your fancy, the most important things to remember are to “mind your posture, keep elbows and arms off the table, start with the sandwiches, then scones, then cakes, maintain eye contact, smile, relax and indulge!” – June Dally Watkins.

places

Pictured above: Wedgwood’s Harlequin Butterfly Bloom range, high tea at the Tea House QVB and the Tiffin Afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel

 

Here are my mums’ picks of the best High Tea places in Sydney:

1: The Victoria Room, Darlinghurst
It’s like turning back the clock to the 1930’s/40’s, when ladies dressed like ladies. The decor is decadently English period with pretty china, flowers in mismatched jars and a pianist. Good selection of tea and an assortment of sweat savouries.

2: The Observatory Hotel (now trading as the Langham Hotel), The Rocks
Once again very English parlour/library style interior.  Great service, yummy scones and an amazing assortment of teas. Best of all a bottomless supply of tea at no additional charge.

3: The Gunners Barracks, Bradley’s Head
It’s all about the beautiful setting here. Sitting on the wide bullnose verandah of this gorgeous old sandstone turn of the century building overlooking the amazing Sydney Harbour.

4: Burnt Orange, Middle Head
This is one of my favourite places. A wonderful place for a more informal, girly high tea. Larger groups work well here. Good value, lovely, pretty and simple decor. Lots to look at, shabby at its chicest!

5: The Stamford Hotel, The Rocks & The Tea Room, QVB building
Both nice venues serving high quality refreshments and scones. The Tea selection at the Stamford is below par and the Tea Room, whilst an amazing space lacks warmth in its’ environment.

Image pictured at the top of the page is courtesy of juliegoodwin.com.au

– Pia