From scones to samosas, the English high tea just got higher on our list
HIGH tea used to be for the elite. Whether you were from England or Egmore, that is. Two years ago, the quintessential English tradition had just started to make an entrance in the city when five-star hotels like The Leela Palace Chennai and Taj Coromandel had begun introducing it on their menus. Fast forward to 2017 and elaborate three-tiered feasts of cupcakes and biscotti feature on several cafe menus — making the trend tea less pricey, more accessible and clearly hip.
It’s raining cups!
“I’m not sure why it’s become so popular honestly, but you know how it is. One person starts it and people like it, and then suddenly everyone’s doing it,” says Vandana Mehtani, co-founder, Lloyd’s Tea House in Gopalapuram. This café launched their high tea menu just a couple of weeks ago, after Vandana tasted a similar spread while on holiday. And this café is the latest to add on a high tea, after others like The Brew Room, Amethyst and The English Tea Room.
The best part about it is that it is a walk-in option. No pre-ordering required. “And you don’t need to be in a large group of 15 people or more to make the most of it. We have custom sizes to feed small numbers as low as two and four people,” adds Vandana.
Staples on the spread
Here are some of the staples you can expect. Freshly bakes scones with clotted cream, finger sandwiches filled with egg salad, bonconccinni and tomato or a classic chicken and mayo, eclairs, mini cupcakes, shortbread cookies and a rainbow selection of macaroons. “As you can tell, it’s fairly elaborate. A far cry from just the pakodas and chips that a lot of people associate tea time with,” says Executive Chef Achal Aggarwal of the Hilton.
This past week, you could say that Chef Achal has been knee-deep in tea — with a two-week long high tea festival (that is on till Jan 29) at the hotel’s lobby level café EST. Count on everything from Earl Grey to Tulsi Mint, and then some. Also, not to overstate the obvious — but you can’t order a spread like this at breakfast time. Most places serve it between 3 pm and 7 pm. Although, according to Chef Achal, who dived headfirst into researching this British feast of yore before the festival, “The best time to have high tea is between 4 and 4.30 pm, not too close to lunch, not too close to dinner,” he tells us with a smile.
Ironically, if none of the above is ‘your cup of tea’ — you may be waiting a while before this kettle dries up. “Our English high tea has been doing so well, that we started serving a desi-inspired version as well a couple of weeks ago,” says Chef Sujit Mukherjee of the Leela Palace. From scones to samosas — there are so many reasons to get high on chai. Average price for two: Rs 500 at a café. Rs 1,000 – 1,500 at a five-star hotel.
— Sonali Shenoy
Picture — Sunish P Surendran & Romani Agarwal
Why the ‘high’ before tea?
The British tradition of high tea began in the mid- 1700s as an afternoon meal usually served between 3 and 4 o’clock. Initially, it was a meal for the working man, taken standing up or sitting on tall stools, thus ‘high’. If you’re ever in London, londontown.com offers a real time map to fix those crumpet cravings.
For a more impromptu bellyful at tea time, watch out for homebaker Kuki Ravindran’s ‘high tea box’ that she posts on Facebook page every couple of months. The rotating menu is different every time, but since the concept began two years ago, the favourites include Sausage rolls, Sriracha and cream-cheese puffs and dark chocolate and salted caramel cupcakes. At The Kuki-Jar. Priced at Rs 1,600. Serves four to eight people. Details: 9841090592