The first image that springs to my mind when I think about high tea is a British grandmother sitting in a hotel lobby and sipping on some earl grey tea with her pinky sticking out. It’s rarely an activity that I associate a group of late-twenties grad students participating in. Interestingly enough, this is exactly what our group was composed of (not counting myself since I’ve yet to become a grad student).
My first introduction to the world of high tea, or afternoon tea, was last summer during my whirlwind trip to China. I got to see the high and mighty eating yummy sweets and sipping their tea at the Penninsula Hotel while I merely walked by, drooling over their scrumptious arrangement of treats. It was actually Antony’s idea to do high tea for his birthday as opposed to a yummy steak at the Keg (my poison of choice for birthdays). Toronto actually has a fair share of choices for high tea such as the famous Windsor Arms and the chic Four Seasons. We went with the King Edward since it had great reviews and wasn’t overly pricey (at about $20-$30 a head depending on the set you choose).
We were first presented with a open box of all the teas, allowing you to sniff each one so that you can make your selection. Sara went with the Darjeeling Oolong tea while Antony and myself went with the traditional English Breakfast tea. Jenn decided on the house blend, her choice being influenced by having a tea that she can put both honey and milk into.
The interesting thing about high tea is that the tea leaves are placed right into the pot with the water, otherwise known as loose tea. The filtering happens through use of a tea strainer which is placed right on top of your china tea cup. A couple of times, we’d forget to place the strainer on our cups before pouring and would have to pick out the leaves after.
I can’t really comment much about the tea besides that it took a while to steep and become strong enough to taste in the back of your mouth. Infact, with Sara’s tea, it didn’t finally come on strong until the tea was already cold. Fortunately, this is somewhat remedied by our server who would kindly pour more hot water into our tea pots through the course of the meal.
For our food platter sets, we each went with the traditional choice of the King’s Tea serving. This comes with a few finger sandwiches, some scones with clotted cream, and a few tarts.
The seafood based sandwich had a very overwhelming fishy taste. It only consisted of smoked salmon with chopped bits of shrimp and mayonnaise. Thanks to my shellfish allergy, I couldn’t try it, so my previous comment is actually based on the opinion of my friends. On the other hand, the ham sandwich was great. It was a nice melody of chopped ham and chicken with some herbs and a bit of mayonnaise. The set also came with a cucumber sandwich and an egg salad sandwich, both were okay but nothing too special.
Now onto the scones. First off, allow me to display my shallowness by saying that my original thought behind clotted cream was “yuck!”. Why does this make me shallow? Well because on an episode of The Girls Next Door (see?), the girls went to London and tried clotted cream and were mostly disgusted by it. Fortunately, I loved the stuff. I know it’s pretty much composed of all of the fat and bad-for-you stuff of milk, but it’s so darned smooth and good, especially on the cranberry scones. Plus, top it off with some jam and you’ve got yourself one of the best afternoon snacks you could treat your taste buds to!
The treats at the top weren’t too noteworthy. I guess the meringue tart was probably the most memorable with it’s crunchy meringue and fresh raspberry sitting on a chocolate filled tart. It makes a great taste all together if you manage to fit a bit in your mouth. I ate my meringue first.
It was a nice experience trying out high/afternoon tea for the first time, and I regret not doing it while in London or Hong Kong, but I do plan on doing it when I visit said places again. Oh, and since this is mainly an experience piece, I thought I’d make note of Sara’s bathroom experience. While she was utilizing the facilities post-tea time, she could hear the pleasurable ecstatic moans of a female coming from the service room. Hopefully her experience at the King Edward Hotel was as tasteful as ours.
(I can hear Sara already saying, “Aww why did you have to write about that on your website?”)