High Tea, often perceived as quintessentially British, is less about reliving a period drama and more about a cool new alternative to cocktails. As we approach the holidays, celebrate your occasion with something different and host a High Tea either at a venue or in your home.
Tracie Michaud from Tea with Tracie states, “Many people mistakenly refer to afternoon tea as high tea. High tea was an informal occasion served at high tables for lower classes who were hungry after a day of hard labour. Afternoon tea, however, was a more formal occasion served at low tables for the upper class. It was a social gathering that included fine china, 3-tiered trays, dainty finger foods, and fascinators.”
It is said that afternoon tea was invented by Anna Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, in 1840 who complained of feeling weak or low in the afternoons (as she found the length of time between lunch and dinner too long). She then was served tea and sweet treats, which later became an additional formal mealtime.
Tracie is a certified tea sommelier through the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, and has always been a tea lover and vintage teacup junkie. She even has a quiz on her site named What’s your personaliTea to figure out which of her many teas will suit your taste. Her favourite black tea is called Morning Hustle and her favourite Earl Grey is called Velvet Earl.
Tracie’s Afternoon Tea-to-Go is a simple solution to laying on a special high tea at home. For $35 you will be treated to a selection of scones, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, and a selection of desserts such as a lemon curd tart. It was the perfect solution during the pandemic for customers who were missing their tea traditions, with many people dusting off Granny’s vintage teacups to start enjoying this noble occasion at home.
“One of the common mistakes people make when brewing tea is steeping it too long, or using the wrong water temperature, both of which can result in a bitter brew. Another missed opportunity is when people forget to cover their tea while it’s steeping. Taste is 75% smell. You need to contain all those volatile aroma compounds so you can breathe in the deliciousness when you take your first sip” says Tracie.
With many venues now open for in-person experiences, Waterdown Tea House is back to offering a high tea on Saturdays and Sundays. Their sitting features a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream as well as lunch options.
Talking of clotted cream, also called scalded, clouted, Devonshire, or Cornish cream…. it is a thickened cream made by heating full cream milk and cooling it slowly. The cream then rises to the surface, or clots, hence the name. In 1998, the term Cornish Clotted Cream became a Protected Designation of Origin as long as the milk is produced in Cornwall.
Nyla’s Room is in Oakville and offers a bespoke high tea service with your choice of menu and tea. You are seated in the drawing room and your menu could include smoked Norwegian organic salmon with crème Fraiche pinwheels, English cucumber with cream cheese and chive rounds topped with Ontario tomato, lemon blueberry or garlic and chive scones, or an assortment of petit fours.
Tea at the White House in Waterdown has exotic tea blends with names such as Buckingham Palace Garden Party or Sticky Toffee Pudding. The owner, Connor Skingley, is a tea sommelier and describes his establishment as, “A tea shop for tea lovers. A tea room for the tea drinker”. They also serve scones and a selection of finger sandwiches as well as a lunch menu including sweet and sour chicken salad and seasonal soup with a cheddar muffin.
High tea is the new cocktail gathering and oh-so-elegant and refined dining option. Make sure you include it in your holiday entertaining to add some old-world glamour.
Tea with Tracie || Teawithtracie.ca
Waterdown Tea House || Waterdownteahouse.ca
Nyla’s Room || Trufflesandgelato.com
Tea at the White House || Teaatthewhitehouse.com