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Simple Pleasures of Afternoon Tea...

Ahh...A lovely scone filled with clotted cream and jam!!! Time for tea!

Good day to you! A glimpse at this photo would make anyone rush off to the kitchen, make a cuppa and sit a spell to savor this mouth watering scone! It's getting chilly this time of year; makes one think of a hot cup of tea, especially in the afternoon. Have you had the opportunity lately to enjoy a cup of tea? With a scone or just a couple of shortbread cookies? Upon return from the United Kingdom several weeks ago, we have been pairing our tea with a box of cookies from Fortum and Mason; a store that opened in 1704! If you are in London, give yourself the gift of a visit. It is a really nice experience. We could have stayed for their afternoon tea, but it required reservations and we were unawares. Just a walk around the store is a real visual treat. And, they have an entire corner offering all sorts of teas and cookies for you to purchase. You can also buy their cookies and teas at the airport, prior to your departure; and maybe that helps keep your suitcase a bit lighter until you board your flight.

The pleasures of afternoon tea cannot be passed over and the fall (here in Michigan anyway) beacons one to do so. Setting up for tea doesn't have to be fussy, and it isn't necessary that you sip tea from a bone china teacup...a mug will do. Should you find that you enjoy the ceremony of afternoon tea, there is surely an antique store in your vicinity, filled with lots of antique china teacups and teapots, and perhaps a few sandwich plates (if you are interested). There is something different about preparing and taking tea in the afternoon versus brewing a cup of coffee. Coffee seems right for those that awaken early (5:30 seems to be on trend in our household right now). Two infusions deliver enough caffeine to begin the day and then after that, tea is so often preferred, being lighter in taste and pungency. It seems like coffee and tea have two distinct purposes, unless you are one that only prefers one to the other. Coffee offers a "good morning" jolt, a purposeful hit of caffeine to get one moving. Until I began working for the airlines, back in 2006, I disliked coffee, except for the wonderful aroma. It was those early morning flights that made coffee a necessary evil to be able to check in and appear wide eyed to fly people around at 5:30 in the morning. A few years in to the flight attendant lifestyle I was hooked and today I need my two cups first thing each morning before I begin the day. Tea, on the other hand, has caffeine in it as well, it just doesn't deliver equivalent levels of caffeine like coffee. Also, coffee, the way so many people take it, is more often a portable beverage; poured into a papercup for a quick and disposable duration. Tea, on the other hand, poured into a lovely teacup, requires that you take a seat, savor the aroma and to sip, as you sit back and relax. Suffice it to say, their intent/objective is meant for different purposes. Some would argue that tea IS for the morning; I would just say that, if that is the preference, it is most likely because there is no desire/need for coffee as a morning beverage. Perhaps one doesn't even like coffee (I understand that for sure). Even so, tea is the perfect afternoon break time retreat. Often, I prepare two cups in the afternoon for me and my husband, Art. He actually takes a break from whatever project he is working on and sits down to enjoy his tea. We love sweets and find this a perfect excuse to indulge in a couple of shortbread cookies. Scones are a favorite, but I don't always have those on hand. They do take time to prepare and bake. Often, they disappear quickly. I hate to add this, but scones are an occasional treat for us, rather than a regular indulgence. Baked goods are loaded with carbs and need I say more on that?...

To be a real connoisseur of tea takes a lot more than trying a few different teas. Experts in tea visit places where tea is grown and processed to produce different types of tea. It is a fascinating subject if you are interested in tea and learning about it. Harney and Sons is a tea brand I find tried and true. They are masters in the art of tea blending and their offering includes fine teas from around the world. They actually visit places like Sri Lanka and China and India. Darjeeling tea is one of my favorites and said to be the "Cadillac" of teas. It often will have letters after the name to indicate a first flush or second flush when harvested from the grower. First flush tea is harvested in the late winter or early spring. A first flush would render a higher quality of tea, thus a more pricy option. The difference can be experienced if you understand how to determine the flavor/taste differences. Tea is often compared to wine, in that tea is paired with specific foods to get the full experience. Interesting, yes? Like I said, this is a fascinating fork in the road, should you be looking for something to pique your curiosity. A few other well known teas experts offering a full range of teas that you might try are:

  • Mariage Freres - Paris, France

  • Whittards Teas - London

  • Fortum & Mason - London

  • Taylors of Harrogate - London

  • Twinings - London

  • Harney & Sons - U.S.

Of course, there are many others on the market; some more recent like, Tea Forte (Massachusetts) and Tielka (Australia). We have tried all of these tea brands and have always been delighted to experience various blends. Our favorite tea is darjeeling and earl grey. Russian caravan is harder to find around here, but worth trying. It is a black tea, a little serious but so so good.

I hope this post offered a little incentive to try a cup of tea if you are not yet drinking this luxurious beverage OR that you might be inspired to do a little research and treat yourself to a new and/or different brand of tea.

Have a good week...Jeanine

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