Here’s How To Host A Queen-Approved Tea Party

The afternoon tea - a quintessential English social phenomenon that is thought to be a chichi gathering for the upper class. To the uninitiated, there is a whole science behind the delicate nature of tea making. From doilies to loose leaves, here’s all you need to know about hosting an English afternoon tea. But first, stop sticking your pinky out.

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History

Story goes that Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford and lifelong friend of Queen Victoria, was the creator of the English “Afternoon Tea”. She wanted a light meal to curb her hunger between lunch and dinner. Soon after, she began inviting her companions to socialise over tea and pastries. And thus, the Afternoon tea tradition caught on and gave the the English people a legitimate reason to snack. And boy do they take it seriously!

High Tea, Low Tea?

In today’s terms, high tea and afternoon tea are used interchangeably. In actuality, high tea refers to a heavier meal, more specifically, dinner. Despite so, many restaurants and upscale cafes still label it as  “High Tea”. Afternoon tea is also called “Low Tea”, mostly because it takes place in sitting rooms with low tables.

The Wares

The tea wares are the backbone to recreating the most authentic afternoon tea experience. These wares are intricately designed with some fetching upwards of $50,000 to a few Mils. When planning to host a tea party, don’t forget the following or you might be thrown into the dungeons for crime against the English national pastime.

  1. Teapot, cup and saucer: A formal tea would use matching teapots and cups while an eclectic mix for an informal tea would do just fine.
  2. Milk jug: Milk before or after the pouring of tea is debatable, but entirely to one’s preference.
  3. Sugar bowl and tongs: Use cubes for a more refined tea session.
  4. Hot water pitcher: Used for weakening a strong brew.
  5. Tea strainer: To catch loose leaves
  6. Napkins: For spills, cleanups and signalling the end of the tea session.
  7. Silver Tray: Serving tray that is reserved for the most formal afternoon tea.
  8. Tiered cake stand: An essential in formal and informal tea sessions.
  9. Plate: To place lemon slices or food.

The Fares

Afternoon tea served are often less robust than the morning brews. Black tea like Darjeeling and Lapsang Souchong or blends like Earl Grey are the go-to staples.

When it comes to nibbles, the menu traditionally consist of 3 courses: scones, savoury sandwiches and sweet pastries or cakes. These snacks are served on tiered stands in this particular order: top layer for scones, middle for savoury and the bottom for sweets. Etiquette dictates that it should also be consumed in that order. But to be honest, nothing can stop a sweet tooth from reaching for that piece of macaron.

All poised with the basics of hosting your first proper tea party, now you’ll be all ready to entertain whenever the kettle’s whistles. Of course, with the Queen’s seal of approval.

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I Can’t Believe It’s Not – Gelatine!

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One does not simply go to a campfire without marshmallows. And just in case you don't sit well with gelatine, here a great D-I-Y for the gelatine-averse.

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Gelatine sheets or Gelatine powder is mainly made up of collagen found in animal’s skin and bones such as pigs, beef and fish. It acts as a gelling agent and is often used in desserts such as panna cotta, custards and jellies.

Because of the components in gelatine, they are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans. But fear not, here’s one alternative that can produce the same tasty desserts with similar effects!

Agar is the most common vegan alternative for gelatine and it is used frequently in Asian desserts such as ‘kuehs’ (traditional Southeast Asian cakes) and fruit jellies.  They are extracted from a particular seaweed and comes in either flakes, powder or dried sheets like gelatine.

Besides the same use as gelatine, agar agar aids in digestion and are commonly used in fitness diets as it contains high content of fibre.

Talk about eating without having to feel guilty! Here is our fluffy strawberry marshmallow recipe using agar powder:

Ingredients

12.5g agar powder

90ml strawberry puree

150g sugar

90g water

150g glucose

 

Powder Mix

500g corn starch, 500g icing sugar

 

Instructions

  1. Bring strawberry puree to a boil and dissolve agar powder. Once agar powder has been incorporated properly into the mixture, place the liquid in a mixing bowl. Use a whisk attachment for this recipe.
  2. Boil glucose, water and sugar together until it reaches 116 degree Celsius. 
  3. Pour sugar syrup in a steady stream into the strawberry puree, with mixer running on low speed. Once all the sugar syrup has been fully incorporated, whisk on high until mixture has cooled down to room temperature or turn very sticky. This process usually takes about 10 -15 minutes.
  4. Prepare the the powder mix. In a flat tray, oil spray the surface and line with parchment paper. Sieve icing sugar and corn flour together onto the tray and make sure they are evenly mixed together.
  5. Transfer marshmallow mix into a piping bag with desired piping tip. We use a basic round tip for our testing. Pipe marshmallow into long ‘logs’ onto the powder mix tray. Make sure that the marshmallow logs are covered evenly with powder mix, including the top. Leave marshmallow to set overnight.
  6. Brush off the excess powder on the marshmallow and cut them into small pieces. Using a sieve, sift out any excess mix from the marshmallows before storing in an airtight container.

 

We hope you’re all ready to test out this chewy goodness!

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