Angela Davis, our international storyteller and blogger for Nebraska Rural Living tells us about High Tea, Low Tea, and Full Tea as celebrated in her adopted home in Holland with references to buying tea in China and the British tradition of High Tea. After reading her descriptions of the savory and sweet delicacies associated with each, I’m, thinking of initiating the tradition in our office building. I believe I can orchestrate a Low Tea at 4:00 p.m. for me and my 30 some colleagues in the F. Johnson Building? No, what am I thinking! Enjoy Angela’s story.
Nearly everyone loves tea parties where tidbits of fancy pastries, sandwiches and cakes on delicate china are shared in the company of friends and family. Cold, wet and rainy here in the Netherlands, a tea party with warmth and friends was just the ticket. With my mother-in-law’s birthday one day before and Valentine’s Day coming soon after, it became apparent exactly which day to host a “High Tea” party celebration. It’s called “High Tea” because it sounds regal and lofty, but that’s actually inaccurate. In England, “High Tea” is held in the evening around 5 pm. It’s dinnertime and implies meat will be served! Low tea, or Afternoon Tea on the other hand has three basic types: Cream Tea – Tea, scones, jam and cream; Light Tea – Tea, scones and sweets; and Full Tea – Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert. How ever it is served, tea time today includes tiny, dainty, savory sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, delightful sweets and pastries, and of course tea or coffee.
Not so long ago, the English had two meals, a breakfast consisting of ale, bread and beef, and dinner was a bountiful, massive, heavy meal served at the end of the day. During the middle of the eighteenth century, dinner for upper and middle classes shifted from noon to a long, massive evening meal served fashionably late. Who could wait? Having Afternoon Tea filled a hunger void in the afternoon and aristocracy welcomed the ability to meet with friends for nibbles.
You could say my High Tea wasn’t a misnomer because fancy meat sandwiches were served, along with the traditional scones and clotted cream, assorted muffins, cookies, fancy pastries and teas. Friends who couldn’t make the party sent their regrets in the form of two cakes and three apple pies that did not include the large birthday cake I’d ordered to surprise the birthday girl!
Having traveled to China, I’d stopped at a fancy tea house because it boasted a tea museum. Once inside a courtship to buy their fancy teas began. They had my business when I saw the most beautiful jasmine flower gracefully unfold as boiling water transformed it from a gnarly knotted ball. Unable to sit still, I rushed to the bathroom, having inadvertently eaten a spicy pepper earlier, I felt nauseous with an overactive stomach. Seated again, out came the Pu’erh Tea and within seconds all symptoms were gone. I left the store with my fancy cache of Pu’erh Tea, Jasmine Tea, assorted Fruit Teas and triangular Green tea cookies knowing full well a tea party was on the horizon. Sure enough, all 15 guests sat transfixed as mesmerized as I was by the tiny black ball’s astounding transformation into a lovely flower. The Twinings Tea Box remained untouched as we tasted and laughed our way through the teas and treats. Fortunate for my waistline, I managed to send the remaining birthday cake home with the honoree and everyone received a snack pack of left over goodies and sample teas to bring home and share with their families!
Now that your mouth is watering and hankering for some tasty treats and winter’s applying her final seasonal touches, why not invite friends and family over for your own special tea party flavored just the way you like it? Tea houses abound in Nebraska and inspirational tea party ideas are easy to find on the internet. If you’re near any of these rural areas: Blair, Henderson, Sutton, Mitchell, Tekamah, Seward and Fremont, there’s tea house in your neighborhood. Nearby grocery stores also have a fair amount of teas from which to choose. Either way, you owe it to yourself to bask in the lusciousness of all that life has to offer.