‘Come along inside….We’ll see if tea and buns
can make the world a better place’
The Wind in the Willows
As difficult as it is to accept, not many of us live like Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad in Wind in the Willows. We are often unable to spend long, golden days ‘messing about in boats’, being extremely jolly, and eating extravagant picnics that even Waitrose couldn’t supply. However, the Spring days have finally started growing warmer, and the only correct way to spend a pleasant afternoon is to enjoy an indulgent afternoon tea. I am an avid lover of tea and cake, so here are my choices for a delectable afternoon treat…
Step One: A Question of Tea
It’s all very well brewing up a solid cup of builder’s tea if one is simply quenching one’s thirst. Afternoon tea, however, is an entirely different matter. There is a sense of theatre about it. Here are my 5 favourite loose leaf teas!
1 – Empire Blend by Fortnum & Mason
For my last birthday, I was taken to The Ritz for afternoon tea! After we had eaten our weight in scones, we rolled along to Fortnum & Mason, where I purchased a caddy of Empire Blend, a rich concoction of Ceylon, India and East Africa teas. Whenever I drink it I remember being very happy, and dangerously full of food.
2 – Lady Grey by Twinings
I am usually a slave to Earl Grey, but this tea is a zestier, brighter version. It is absolutely perfect for hot days, as the citrus flavours are superbly refreshing. It will always remind me of Bristol, finishing uni on warm afternoons and visiting my pal Eliza for Lady Grey and carrot cake.
3 – Winchester Evening by Char
Perfect for summer evenings, this beautiful tea was sent to me in the post as a birthday present from my Dad and step-mum. It is described as a white peony spring blended with rosebuds. The instructions demand that each cup must contain exactly three rosebuds, and the result is wonderfully light and delicate.
4 – Pure Ceylon by Taylors of Harrogate
I purchased this tea for a small garden party I hosted in my little Hampshire garden. We ate many cakes, played Articulate and drank this mellow, golden tea all afternoon!
5 – Green Tea with Jasmine by Whittard of Chelsea
I was first introduced to this in my first year of university by my friend Lexy. Our halls were situated in front of a Chinese supermarket, and consequently we spent many hours eating strange, lovely foods out of indecipherable packets. We grew rather attached to Jasmine tea, and this is one of my favourite combinations.
Step Two: Let them Eat Cake
Where would we be without cake? I know I would be very miserable, although undoubtedly slimmer. This cake is my very own creation. I decided to make something ridiculously indulgent to accompany my tea, as life is too short not to enjoy yourself. I frown severely upon calorie counting.
Vanilla, Strawberry and Rose Victoria Sponge
225g caster sugar
a droplet of vanilla
225g self-raising flour
a punnet of strawbs
a pot of double cream
jar o’ jam
icing sugar to sprinkle
crystallised rose petals
1) Preheat the oven to about 180°C.
2) Cream butter and sugar, add the eggs and vanilla, and sieve in the flour. Pop into greased cake tins and into the oven for around 10-15 minutes.
3) Whip the cream until stiff. Cut strawbs into halves.
4) When sponges are baked, remove from oven and leave to cool. Then sandwich them around jam, cream and strawbs. Dust top with icing sugar and crystallised rose petals.
But how does one crystallise a rose petal?
C’est simple! Lightly whisk the white of one egg, and use a paintbrush to apply a thin layer onto both sides of each petal. Then dab them in caster sugar until fully coated. Leave to dry overnight, et voilà!
Step Three: Have a pleasant afternoon!
Modern life can be very tedious and tiresome. If I were a doctor, I would prescribe this kind of afternoon tea once a week. This evidently proves why I shouldn’t be a doctor, but if you can take some time out this summer to enjoy tea with a good novel or a gossip with friends, please do!
This post has been written as an entry to the Whittard of Chelsea Afternoon Tea Blogger Carnival!
Illustration by E H Shepard