Regular long-time readers of EclectEcon know that I was introduced to taking afternoon tea at posh establishments about eight or so years ago. My latest review/report, with links to all my earlier posts on the topic can be found here.
Unfortunately, practically NO ONE in North America understands what a proper afternoon tea is or should be (there are some notable, important exceptions of course). Here, via a UK correspondent, is an excellent summary. I have listed each of the major points below, but go read the article and look at the photos there. It is absolutely spot on, but there is a tone (and a tonne!) of humour throughout it that had me laughing out loud frequently.
- It is called "afternoon tea", not "high tea". [see this]
- Wait to see how strong the tea is before adding milk. [I don't add milk or sugar or lemon when I take afternoon tea].
- Hold the cup with your forefinger touching your thumb at the handle and with the handle resting on your middle finger. [I probably commit a minor gaffe by sometimes slipping my forefinger slightly through the handle.]
- Stir the tea with back-and-forth, not circular, motions. [not an issue for me]
- The sandwiches must have no crusts. Shapes don't matter much so long as the sandwiches are cut smaller than diagonal halves [I would add they should be smaller than the standard three-cut sandwiches I have seen some places. Also, open face is acceptable if attractive; and small croissant-based sandwiches, mini-quiches, and mini-sausage-rolls are a pleasant variation.]
- The primary pastry is a scone, pronounced skahn, not skohn. [I quite dislike the small dry scones that I have had at some of the more tony places. I like a good-sized scone that has some substance, even when split. And I prefer a choice between plain and fruit (usually raisin, but cranberry is nice too) scones].
- Good scones will split in the middle with your fingers. Don't use a knife to split them.
- Don't put the two halves of a scone back together to eat them like a North American sandwich.
- Strawberry jam is traditional, but plum jam is okay. [I prefer strawberry jam, but please do NOT bring out those high-pectin little jars].
- Clotted cream is mandatory. It is also sometimes known as Devon cream (or Devonshire Cream). It is a very dense, spreadable cream that is absolutely delightful. [Several places I have been in North American have served whipped cream. Phhht. As the writer of the piece says, if an establishment does this, report them to your local council and have them closed down immediately].
- Jam then cream, or cream then jam? It doesn't matter. [I prefer cream first just because I find it difficult to spread cream on top of jam.]
- Pastry desserts on the top layer should be dainty and either bite-sized or at least small. [I have had far too many dry, disgusting desserts at afternoon teas. I guess that's traditional. I prefer tarts and gooey squares.]
The above is a quick summary. The article itself is well-worth reading for the photos and the humour. The comments are interesting and fun, too.