I wouldn’t call myself an Anglophile, but there are few traditions I adore more than afternoon tea. Sure, it’s the most decadent and frivolous and English of them all, but with its bite sized sandwiches, disproportionately high amount of sugar and endless cups of tea, what’s not to love?! Especially if you’ve had a bit too much to drink the night before…
And as luck would have it, this was precisely the situation I found myself in one March afternoon. My good friend Elisabeth invited us to the Tea Salon at Fortnum & Masons with her Mum, who was visiting from Canada. Although I was initially nervous about the combination of a fancy venue, being not quite (mentally) upright and meeting Liz’s mum, it turned out she was absolutely lovely, and generously hosted not just us, but also our gigantic hungover appetites!
To begin with, the tea-rista (with a qualification to match his title) conducted a tea tasting, doing his best to interest us in the rather long tea list. However, I zoned in on the Darjeeling earl grey, comfort clearly the coping strategy behind that move. It was fresh, warming and exactly what my poor dehydrated brain needed.
With the cakes however, we were a little more sassy. After polishing off all the scones on our trays, a task that did not take long given the smooth, fluffy clotted cream and wild berry jam they were served with, we ventured toward the cake trolley. If it had been difficult to resist the sugar devils before, now, we had begun to worship them - I just had to have a slice of the gorgeous Princess cake beckoning to me. So I gave in and I did. And holy hell, sinning never tasted so soul satisfyingly good!
Three hours passed surprisingly quickly - the conversation was amusing and pleasant, the tea helping us keep pace and the cakes giving it that cheerful boost to make it truly a delightful afternoon.
I’m sure men often wonder what purpose afternoon tea really serves…it did start as a fashion trend amongst 19th century ladies of leisure. But I prefer to see it as a cunning ploy to test female friendships - if you can make it through all the sugar, decadence and sips of tea without burning your tongue (quite literally!) I might just consider staying your friend…(true story).