Monday, 23 January 2012

Afternoon Tea - A dying tradition...I jolly well hope not!

In her opinion:

I love Afternoon Tea.  I love High Tea. I love Royal Tea. And I think the fact that I spent part of the weekend watching Downton Abbey online only reinforced my love of Tea.

Tea is typically a small meal eaten between 2pm and 5pm.  According to Wikipedia (have I mentioned previously how much I love and rely on Wikipedia), afternoon tea originated in England in the 1840s serving to fill the gab between lunch and dinner.  It is a luxury that most working class people don't have the time to enjoy in their everyday lives.  I've only had Afternoon Tea in the true sense of the word a few times.  There are some that stand out more then others. 

The first tea which left a mark on my memory was at Langdon Hall Country House in Cambridge, Ontario.  It was 2005 and I was pregnant with our son at the time.  Edgar had decided that his pregnant wife needed a nice pick me up in the middle of a difficult pregnancy.

I ordered my standard Earl Grey tea to drink and a beautiful three tiered plate of scones (served with clotted cream and jam), savoury sandwiches, savoury pastries and an assortment of sweet pastries came to the table.  If you wanted you could order High Tea which meant you could have had a glass of champagne with your tea. 

I loved sitting in the conservatory of this beautiful great house.  It was a wonderful experience.  I think that my little boy's love of tea must have started in the womb because he too is very fond of Earl Grey tea. 

Whey my son was ten months old we travelled to the Bahamas.  One afternoon we were in Nassau for the day and decided to go for afternoon tea at the British Colonial Hilton since we had heard it was the place for afternoon tea.  Unfortately, we were told that they no longer served aftenoon tea...well that knocked my socks off or actually my flip flops off. 

We've had a few good tea experiences since Langdon Hall across Ontario but not good enough to write about here.

The last time we had a really good afternoon tea that warrants a mention here, we were in Ottawa for a couple of days in May, 2011.  We were walking past the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, when we noticed other people having tea in one of the restaurant windows.  It had been a while since our last afternoon tea experience and we decided there and then that we would have to go for tea...I love saying that!

Fairmont Chateau Laurier behind the National War Monument.

We walked into the hotel and were redirected to Zoe's Lounge (named for Sir Wilfred Laurier's wife Zoe) where we made a reservation for tea later that afternoon.

Now this is a beautiful room with floor to ceiling windows.  We were seated in a corner window that allowed us to see the Rideau Centre across the street and the stairs down to the canal below.  We ordered the Royal Tea.  This was perfect as the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had just taken place and Canada was still in the Royal Wedding mood.

As we looked around, I could see other children also enjoying tea with their families.  This made me glad that other people still partook of this tradition and what's more were teaching it to their children.

The tea cart in Zoe's Lounge.

I ordered my usual Earl Grey tea and the glass of the Moet Brut Champagne to go with the Royal Tea.  This Royal Tea consisted of chocolate covered strawberries and a seasonal fruit cup.

We were then presented with a three-tiered plate of deliciousness...both sweet and savoury to accompany our tea.
We were given a selection of delectable finger sandwiches, scones and mouth-watering desserts to enjoy.

This tea was very special. It is not everyday that you get to enjoy Afternoon Tea in a beautiful historical location and I was glad that we took the chance to enjoy it.  My son loved it and watching him drink tea made me smile.

Edgar keeps saying we need to go back to Langdon Hall for tea but there is one place I would like to try first before heading back.  That is the Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.

There are still a few tearooms in our area that serve Afternoon Tea.  The link takes you to a very handy guide of Ontario's tearooms and provide a list of even male-friendly tearooms.  As well as, the old hotels or manor houses continue to serve Afternoon Teas. I'm glad that these tearooms and hotel continue to serve Afternoon Tea and I hope that our society never gets too modern to stop serving this little bit of tradition.

In his opinion:

Ok, here it goes...Yes, I'm a guy and yes, I do love High Tea. There I said it.
I figure if Tea was good enough for English Kings, Japanese Kamikazes and Boston then it's good enough for me. 

I know, I know! There are some people (guys) that will say...High Tea is only for older Women and the English. Actually both of them are inaccurate. Afternoon Tea and High Tea was actually popularized by a young Portuguese born English Queen and her young husband, King Charles II - around the time that the Portuguese gave the British the rights to utilize Portuguese ports around the world.  Thus, opening the English to the world of the Tea trade. 

Queen Catherine of Braganza

But enough of History and let's ask why do I like Tea. First, it's good for you and's really good for you and...........did I mention that it's good for you?

Being the remedy of choice for all "sickly symptoms" as I grew up, it quickly went from a necessity to enjoyment. There was chamomile for stomach aches, lemon tea for colds and even Common Mallow (Malvas ) for everything else.

Then you pair Tea with a good Sherry Wine or Champagne, top it up with delicious squares, scones, cakes and sandwiches and voila...a combination made in Heaven.

Must admit that my favorite place for Afternoon Tea is Langdon Hall. First and foremost because it allows me to eat at Langdon Hall without taking out a loan and second because it is good, for the price of $32 per person.
The Afternoon Tea there is usually served in the conservatory (fancy word for a solarium or a room full of windows) at 2 or 4 PM, so give it a try.

Another favorite was our High Tea at Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. As a fluke we were walking by this gorgeous Hotel and saw people having tea and thought, let's try to see if they had room, and they did. It was very nice with obscene choices of teas and goodies to go with it. Of course we started with Champagne and the rest is history but I highly recommend it to anyone in the Ottawa area.

To finalize, just wanted to highlight (or lowlight) in this case, that when we tried to have Afternoon Tea at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas they told us that they didn't serve it. Seriously...the British Hilton and no High like going to a ballpark and they don't serve beer.

British Colonial Hilton
Anyway, tea is not just for the English. It can and should be enjoyed by everyone. So go and try won't be disappointed and don't forget to stick out your pinky when holding the Tea cup.  Well, if you are not too confident in your manhood, I'd skip that step. Off you go...

Zoe's Lounge on Urbanspoon Langdon Hall on Urbanspoon

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