You know how much the English love their tea. Apart from our morning cuppa I usually put the kettle on around 4pm which is official 'tea time'. On Sunday I pulled out all the stops and served a special tea to celebrate a friend's birthday.
There are many different kinds of teas served in England. You may have been introduced to afternoon tea when watching Downton Abbey. The Dowager countess liked to invite a lady friend over to tea when she wanted to discuss something or maybe do a little prying. That was a fairly simple affair with maybe a small sandwich and cake and cups of tea and taken sitting on a chair with plates on knees or on a small side table. That is called low tea.
For this occasion my tea was mixture of Low tea, Royal tea and Devon cream tea! Royal tea named, not because the queen was in attendance, and she was, but because I served a little bubbly to start with.
We have Anne, Duchesse of Bedford, lady in waiting to Queen Victoria, to thank for this little ritual. With the ever lengthening time between luncheon and dinner she felt the need for a little snack and ordered a few sandwiches and cakes to be delivered to her room. She then suggested the idea of tea time to Queen Victoria who would invite ladies over to take tea with her.
But this wasn't an all ladies event at our house. We had gentlemen too, although it was the ladies who got together for a photograph while the men did the gossiping!
They may not have served all the things on my tea-time table but you would have been sure to see a selection of sandwiches and small cakes.
And maybe some meringues.
Undoubtedly there would be scones too. At one time the famous Devon tea consisted of scones with jam and clotted cream and was only served in the West Country. But such a delicious tea was sure to be adopted by other counties and now you can find a cream tea in many other counties and naming it after their own county.
I have to thank my friend the internet for many of these recipes. Want to know what was on the table.
Roasted red pepper and goat cheese sandwiches
Egg mayonnaise and chive sandwiches
Smoked salmon and cream cheese cucumber bites
Mushroom vol au vents
Curried chicken mayonnaise with grapes, dried cranberries, pecans and green onions on rounds of Granny Smith apples.
Watermelon cubes with pomegranate balsamic vinegar
Currant scones with strawberry jam and Devon cream
Meringues with cream and strawberries
Strawberries stuffed with sweetened cream cheese.
Earl Grey and English breakfast tea.
Next time you are thinking of celebrating a friend's birthday why not throw here a Royal tea.