Tea for three
By the height of its imperial glory, the English empire had made its afternoon tea-drinking ceremony a symbol of ultimate civility. The custom lives on at High SocieTea.
My mother, having raised the most attractive babies on the West Coast, knows quite a bit about cute, and this place earned her seal of approval. The house is lined with pretty gardens, stone walkways and what one assumes are perpetually freshly cut lawns.
“It looks like it should be in the woods,” she said. I assume she meant that it looks like a place where the seven dwarves or perhaps a hobbit might live. It gives the impression of being a secret cottage—known only to the tea-drinking cognoscenti.
The interior is densely decorated with flowers, butterflies and giraffes. There are quite a few rooms, including a Victorian reading room and the cozy garden room, where my mother, my sister, Brenna, and I were seated. Despite the luncheon crowd, we had the room to ourselves and enjoyed a pleasant, secluded tea party.
I do have one complaint about the environment: the second week of November is way too early to be playing Christmas music.
The menu has salads, soups, sandwiches and a few other lunch foods—but most important, it has the tea options: a simple pot is just $3; Victorian tea with scones is $6; sweet tea with desserts and scones is $9. But why mess around? If you’re going to have a proper tea party, do it all the way—all the way to England. English afternoon tea ($16 for one, $30 for two, $42 for three and $56 for four) comes with sandwiches, scones, desserts, cream, preserves and lemon curd. Fabulous.
After deciding to do the English afternoon tea, my mother and I faced the difficult yet rewarding task of selecting teas. When we were seated, our waiter handed us two things: the menu and the tea guide. The tea guide begins with an “introduction to tea” and includes short descriptions of more than 40 teas.
After much deliberation, we elected these teas: “the winter blend,” a seasonal special, a black tea with “apple, cinnamon, almond and the finest Madagascar bourbon vanilla pieces” and “matechino,” which the tea guide describes as a “blend of toasted mate, cocoa, sunflower petals, almond bits, cactus flower and cornflower blossoms,” and my sister described as “liquid banana nut bread.”
Brenna had the cup of soup and half sandwich ($6.95) with a Greek pita and cream of broccoli. The sandwich ingredients were fresh and crisp, and it came with a tasty noodle salad. The soup was creamy and warm and good.
The afternoon tea food was served on a three-tiered pastry server with the sliced sandwiches, chicken, tuna, egg salad and cucumber, scones in the middle and the desserts, shortbread and tartlets and more served at the top. It was a fun pyramid to climb. The scones are sprinkled with almonds and go well with the cream, preserves and the delicious lemon curd. Of course, much of the food is rather bland—but what do you expect? It’s English—and, besides, not all foods have to have total flavor explosions to be good.
Of course, the good food is just half the fun at High SocieTea; the other half is pouring through the old fashioned tea filters and stirring with the little spoons and gossiping and just generally feeling like a member of the aristocracy hiding out at a woodland retreat.