Tuesday, 6 August 2013

High Tea aka Afternoon Tea

One of the things I remember while growing up as a kid was, being reminded of proper table etiquette.  My stepfather would say to me, “You can’t behave like that, Lisa, when you are dining with the Queen”. Usually he was referring to me having my elbows on the table or my not eating something I didn’t care for.  I do remember being told; however, that if I stuck my little finger out when sipping, that I would make proper company to have tea with the Queen.  Those early memories must have stuck with me, because having high tea in England and seeing where the Queen and other Royalty lived were some of the things I was most looking forward to, while visiting England.

I had visions of dressing up in fascinators and taking the girls to a quaint little tearoom. There, we would be served fancy sandwiches and sip our tea out of delicate teacups, centuries old.  The ornate silver service would gleam and yes, our little pinkies would be standing at attention.  I was thrilled when our morning discussion of what the day would hold, revealed a trip to Audley End, a beautiful old home in the country, and afternoon tea. 

There was a working kitchen at Audley End where they made
biscuits and bread from scratch.
The gardens of Audley End, so beautiful!
Us in front of the Cloud Hedge, Audley End.
A beautiful setting for Mark to play! The inside was spectacular and the furniture and books were as they
were in the early 1800's, even the paintings on the wall remained in their original spot and form.
Well... there would be no fascinators (no room for those in the backpacks), but I did pull on one of my dresses that I had brought along just in case the opportunity arose to wear more than Lululemon and flip-flops.  After a beautiful day in the country our timing was impeccable.  We arrived at a little tearoom, in one of the prettiest towns in Essex, shortly after 4:00 - proper afternoon teatime.  We asked about afternoon tea and my spirits dipped a little when we were told that afternoon tea had to be ordered in advance.  We were offered cream tea instead.  Now, don’t get me wrong, cream tea is fabulous - warm scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, but I really had my heart set on the fancy little sandwiches and fruit to accompany that cream tea.  I wanted the whole experience.  My reaction must have told a story, as the kind woman responded quickly that she could in deed fix us up an afternoon tea if we wished.  And oh did I wish!

Anxiously awaiting our tea!

We took our seats outside at the only table available, which had a beautiful view of the river, but was a little close to the company van.  Oh well, I just wouldn’t pay attention to the fact that we were practically sitting on the street and I would focus on the beauty of the river instead.  After all, we were having tea.  My excitement was mounting as I imagined the tiered server arriving and wondered what flavor of tea we would be offered.  
Notice the van.... and my silly husband!
 The luncheon arrived and it did look spectacular on the tiered trays, but we didn’t get to choose our tea.  Again, everything looked so delicious that I quickly forgot about it and began to enjoy a tuna and cucumber sandwich on the most delicious brown bread - without the crust.

The tiered trays look wonderful!

Ally and Mark were dying of starvation and just wanted to eat, but I wanted a photo!
The teacups were also not the delicate vintage I had expected, and were so heavy that it made holding out our little pinkies quite difficult.  The plain white teapot dripped tea down the spout after pouring and was more suited to industrial use than afternoon tea.  Even my little brown Betty was better than that!

No pinkies extended with these mugs!
I was trying desperately to hold on to my overly romantic dreams of afternoon tea.  Then… things really started to go down hill.  All in a matter of minutes Ally had spilled her tea, dropped her scone in her lap, was covered from head to toe in icing sugar and went swimming in her teacup for the sugar packet that she had just dropped in.  Tea was to be enjoyed without sugar – didn’t she know that…and swimming – come on!  She was shattering all visions of my afternoon tea right before my very eyes.  Mark thought this was all very comical and the two of them were laughing so hysterically, that I am pretty sure I heard a snort. 
Goofball! Sorry no photo of the wet, icing sugar covered, Ally.
Meg was the only sensible one of the bunch and she and I sipped our tea with the straightest of pinky fingers and delicately nibbled at the sandwiches on our tiered server, trying to ignore the shenanigans across the table.   Mark and Ally had long ago devoured their sandwiches and scones and were thinking about ordering an ice cream cone. Ice cream cones with afternoon tea – where did they think they were – Hewitt’s Dairy Counter?  There is nothing dainty about big slobbery tongues lapping away at ice cream running down an arm. We were in Finchingfield, England, for crying out loud, one of the prettiest towns in Essex, having tea with the Queen.  OK, so maybe the Queen wasn’t really there, but I was imagining she was - and we were never going to be invited back again, no matter how straight our little pinky fingers were. 
Tea time became a regular occurrence while in Chelmsford!

This time, Ally had no mishaps, but Dad... he choked on his tea!

Again there was belly laughter, but nothing would interrupt my indulgence,
not even the weight gain!


  1. You are a gifted writer. Informative, sweet, and off the charts funny!
    What a howl :)


  2. Afternoon tea is one of my favourite things to do where ever I go. John has long suffered the tiny sandwiches and tea cups not made for manly hands!!! We take our grandma's every summer for their birthday treat and I am always looking for a new tea room. hummmmm I wonder if I could swing a trip to England just for tea when I run out of places here??? just wondering??? lol Pinkies up people!!! cheerio :)

    1. I would highly recommend it! Maybe try Betty's in York, it looked like all my dreams come true :)

  3. Looks fabulous, Darlin'!! In fact, all the Ladies look fabulous!! Did you catch a peak of Baby George of Cambridge yet? He'll be in a pram with a crown motif, wearing royal nappies!! And his Dad has a hairline like the Mitchell men!! Now, Lisa, please stop worrying/talking re the weight gain...enjoy your time with tea and hot dogs, Lisa soda and salt and vinegar ripple chips while you can. You may find that other countries will not have the fare that you like...so it will all balance out in the end. And I am sure that you all are being far more active than you realize!! World Tours only come once in a lifetime...enjoy, enjoy, enjoy everything it has to offer!! I don't know where Karen (above) lives but there is a fabulous little tea room in Streetsville ON that I would highly recommend if England is too far this year. Really enjoying your blogging. Almost feel like I am there!!

    1. Thanks Auntie Sue, you are right trips like this do only come once in a lifetime and we certainly are having the time of our lives. I'll let my girlfriend know about the Streetsville tea room.

  4. I could get into the habit just for the sweets!
    Can I order an espresso? Some habits die hard!!

    1. I'm sure you can, the houses that we have been staying in all have fancy expresso machines on the counter!

  5. Lisa, thanks for showing us how your family is doing over there in such an amusing post. It was fun reading your story! Keep it up! We love the great photos.
    Carole & Vince

  6. Loved the story! Couldn't stop reading. I can imagine Ally spilling and being hilarious with Mark! So happy to be reading about your awesome adventures!


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