It’s certainly not new – the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have started the tradition in the Victorian era – but silver pots, tinkling cups and refined, bite-sized morsels haven’t lost their appeal.
No longer just for granny or your great-aunt, high tea has gone to a whole new level, with French champagne, designer cakes, chocolate fountains, gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Six tips for tea etiquette
There are rules and rituals – here are just a few:
* Milk or tea first? Traditionally the milk was poured in first to stop the hot tea cracking fine bone china but which goes first is still a contentious issue.
* Don’t lift your pinkie as you sip – this is considered very bad form.
* ‘Fold’ in the sugar, don’t stir, don’t make a noise and, for heaven’s sake, don’t clink the spoon on the side of the cup.
* Don’t wave your cup around when speaking.
* The jury is still out on whether to put the cream or the jam first on your scone. Just make sure to put everything on your plate before you put it on the scone.
* When presented with a three-tiered stand loaded with sweet and savoury delicacies, Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel recommends you ‘satisfy yourself with one layer before moving to the next’. The usual order is savoury, scones then pastries.
So prepare to pour that Lady Grey, choose a petite pastry, tuck in that pinkie and enjoy.
The Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea offers a little Alice in Wonderland madness in the Westin’s sleekly modern lounge. Savoury morsels and slightly kooky cakes, such as the Mad Hatter’s Hat of chocolate mudcake and Queen of Hearts cakes with raspberry jelly make teatime fun. Jing loose leaf teas, very good coffee and – for those willing to tumble down the rabbit hole –a ‘Drink me!’ cocktail is another possibility. Or you can opt for the Heritage High Tea.
When Served daily
Highlight The White Rabbit ‘s Pocket Watch Cake – very cute.
The Burch & Purchese High Teas (held just once a month) are heavenly with pâtisserie wizard Darren Purchese’s cakes the delicious stars. The Caramel Tartlet with Smoked Vanilla Salt and the Mini Green Tea, Blackcurrant, Pistachio and Yuzu cake are almost too gorgeous to eat. A signature Tiffin High Tea is also served daily in the decidedly chic Aria lounge.
When Tiffin Tea daily; Burch & Purchese Tea once a month (three sittings on the day).
Highlight The cleverly deconstructed Banana Split Tube – heavenly.
The doyenne of high tea lovers, the Windsor has been wheeling out the afternoon tea trolley since 1883. The grand dining room (chandeliers, polished brass and potted palms) is a perfect venue and tea is top notch – the hotel’s tea buyers source their tea from three of the finest Ceylon tea estates. Try the Grey De Luxe, with a hint of Australian myrtle. All old world silver service, a glass of French bubbly and, on the weekend there’s a totally indulgent desert buffet and – shades of Willy Wonka – a chocolate fountain.
When Two sittings daily.
Highpoint Five-star service and the traditional scones with double cream and lemon curd are especially delish.
This heritage sandstone building with its spectacular Sydney Harbour views is a plum spot to while away a little time sipping Ronnefeldt teas from fine china. Hard to beat the little ribbon sandwiches though their bite-sized savoury tarts and vegetable samosas are very moreish. Scones (of course), lime macarons and delicate panna cotta are typical sweet treats.
When Daily from 10 am
Highpoint Indulging in pastries while savouring that view.
Canberra is full of surprises and here’s another – high tea at the Hyatt is definitely not just for out-of-towners. When we visit The Tea Lounge it’s filled with locals clinking glasses of bubbly and popping over to the tea buffet to pile their plates (high, I might add) with fresh scones, pumpkin scrolls, mini meringue tarts and mango tango slice.
When Friday afternoons and 11.30am and 2.30pm weekends.
Highlight The Art Deco décor strikes just the right ambiance.
If you prefer to throw your own tea party, this mobile high tea company caters in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. They can arrange everything from the perfect tea set, (flower-sprigged and girly) tiered stands and linen, to delivery, set-up and collection. Gourmet menus with sandwiches, sweet and savoury tarts (scones and boutique teas.
When At a time to suit you.
Highlight Salted caramel and chocolate tarts (still the flavour of the moment!)