You have probably all heard of English Afternoon Tea. I used to think it was just the ritual of drinking tea in the afternoon accompanied by some random snacks, pastries or mini sandwiches. In my research before my trip to London I came to find out that there is more to it.
Afternoon Tea is an entire meal in of itself. The custom traces it’s origin to the 1840’s and a duchess named Anna Maria Russell. She would get too hungry in the afternoon to wait until supper (which was served around 9pm) so she would have tea brought to her with sandwiches to tide her over till dinner time.
Afternoon Tea is served in many places and is often times done with a theme, i.e. Halloween, Mad Hatter, Agatha Christie, Game of Thrones. The food is decorated to reflect the theme. But there are some essential elements to the meal and a set order in which they are presented.
Without going into the variations of this ritual based on class or regional differences, I will describe it as my husband and I experienced it at Harrods Georgian Restaurant. It was a prix fixe menu and the only choice was the type of tea.
After picking the tea we wanted it was brought to us together with a tiered stand filled with goodies. The bottom plate contained mini quiche and sandwiches and that is what we started with. They were simple, small and only three of them: egg salad, roast beef, and salmon. It doesn’t seem like much but I knew not to agree to the additional sandwiches the server offered us. There was a lot more to come.
Once we cleared our sandwich plate it was replaced with a plate of scones. I want to note that scones in America are different from what we had in London. I’m used to scones being these triangle shaped crumbly and not overly sweet pastries. Kinda dry. The scones we had with Afternoon Tea were round and soft and had raisins in them. They were more like biscuits in the US, only sweet.
At this point the second tier of the stand comes into play. It had little bowls with two types of jam in two of them, lemon custard in one, and clotted cream in the other. Clotted cream is “made by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms “clots” or “clouts” (Wikipedia) It is sooo good!!
I forgot to take pictures of the scones and creme at Harrods but had the good fortune of having them on another occasion and made sure to document their glorious deliciousness!
So you take the cream and spread it on one half of your scone and then put the jam on top. Or the other way around, jam first, then cream. That’s how the English women were doing it. I think the difference is again based on regional variations. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious. I wish I could incorporate this into my daily routine. But then again not, because I don’t think I’d want to spend the rest of my day in the gym working off that scrumptious meal!
When we finished the scones we were offered more, but no thank you! At this point we were sufficiently full but still had one more tier on the stand. The sweets! I have a major sweet tooth and will never turn down dessert. The tiny bites looked so intriguing but trust me when I say I had no more room. I ate one and then had little tastes of the rest.
Oh and now just like then, I almost forgot that last little treat – a little jar of strawberry trifle. The server took pity on us and told us we could take them home with us. Otherwise I would have had to leave behind a full jar of delicious dessert – unheard of!
The label on the lid says Harrods Trifle. I didn’t think to rotate the jar to show it off better. Looking at it now I could have also moved it off center to show the Harrods name on the napkin. I need to work on my food pics more.