My First High Tea

high tea at Scrumptious Reads

Remember when I submitted that bread pudding to the Dilmah people months ago then had to serve it to the judges at the finals?  Well, until the Sunday before that event, I’d never ever been to a high tea or even a mid-level tea.  When I lived in the states I wasn’t invited to one and never knew anyone who attended one either.  Perhaps nobody had a high tea or perhaps I ran with the wrong crowd.  I’m happy either way.

I was complaining on Facebook (as one does in situations like this) and the lovely May King Tsang in Brisbane said she was  hosting a charity high tea at Scrumptious Reads, a bookstore of cookbooks.  I know, seriously fantastic shop and one where I’ve walked my shoe leather off back and forth trying to decide what to buy.  May King said I could attend the high tea and see how things are laid out and how the tea is made.  The donation was only $50 and I needed to learn how to do this.

high tea

The tea was prepared in the back room so I never saw how that was done but I was able to learn that skill from spending hours on YouTube.  The bit I really needed to see was how everything was beautifully laid out on the table.

The clever Danielle Dixon prepared all the food and May King Tsang gave a talk on where tea comes from, the different types of tea, the different temperatures you should use for brewing the different teas (boiling water burns green tea) and how long to brew the tea.  Did you know that you put the tea or the tea bags in the pot and then stir and then a minute and a half later you stir again?  Yeah, I didn’t know that either but it does make a huge difference in the flavour.

high tea

There was nothing served at the high tea that I didn’t love.  Everything was fresh and gorgeously presented.  I sat at the end of the table with two charming men who love food.  Perfect situation for me!  I think my favourite was the tea smoked duck sandwiches on a bed of cucumber and cream cheese.  There was just a hint of smokiness and the duck was well cooked and tender.

tea smoked duck finger sandwiches

Just when I thought I was going to have to eat the salmon pearls filled with wasabi cream, they whisked out some sticky caramelised onion and brie tarts right out of the oven. I don’t do fish well.  It gets to the back of my throat and screams, “I’m not staying!”  Imagine my luck when the man next to me said,” I LOVE that salmon, want to swap a tart for your salmon?”   It could have been ocean trout so don’t yell if I got that wrong.  I didn’t eat it.  I LOVED the tarts.  I loved them so much I didn’t stop to photograph them.  I ate three.  Someone came by with extra tarts and I took another one.

salmon pearls

The salmon pearls were made from thinly sliced salmon wrapped around a ball of wasabi cream and placed on a charcoal cracker and topped with caviar.  They were very pretty to look at.

No high tea would be complete without scones with jam and cream and these were light and fluffy and the perfect holder for just enough sweet jam topped with a dollop of whipped cream.   The CWA – Country Women’s Association would have given these scones an A+.


After the scones disappeared and that happened very quickly, we moved right on to mille feuille filled with Hellalia Vanilla Tea cream.  These were as pretty as a picture but I didn’t stand on ceremony to gaze affectionately – I ate one.  Yes the cream squooshed out the other side and I didn’t care.

We were nearly finished – only the Chai Tea cupcakes and the palmiers filled with heaps of cinnamon and sugar.  I couldn’t decide if I could hold one more cup of tea and any more food but I went to conquer.  The cupcakes were soft and were faintly tea flavoured and as you might expect, the sweet palmiers were crisp and flaky.

May King Tsang, Danielle Dixon and Julie Tjiandra

My first high tea experience was terrific and my thanks to Julie Tjiandra, owner of Scrumptious Reads, Danielle Dixon – an Australian Masterchef finalist and May King Tsang, owner of May King Tea – a business selling tea.  With a name like that what else would you do?  It was a perfect introduction into what a high tea should be and gave me more confidence for the Dilmah High Tea Challenge.

Have you been to many high tea events?

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  1. says

    I always make it a policy when someone walks by offering extra tarts to snare an extra one. Or two. 😉 You can do a high tea in the US, but they’re usually pretty lame compared to the ones I’ve been to in England or Canada. Most people in the US don’t drink tea, and don’t understand the concept. I actually have a friend, though, who has a business doing high teas for folks (usually it’s a baby or wedding shower, or something similar), and she does it right (and has a wonderful collection of tea cups that she uses). Anyway, I don’t think having been to a high tea in the US would have been all that useful an experience – what you did was so much better. Plus it sounds like a wonderful time!
    john@kitchenriffs recently posted..The Gin Rickey Cocktail

    • says

      I left the states 20 years ago and if there were high teas in Knoxville or Orlando, I would have heard about it (and gone!) I loved that the high tea I went to, nothing matched. The tea cups were all different, the cutlery (silverware) was different and the plates were different – and it all worked.

  2. says

    I love having high tea when it is available, I like to go with either my mother or my little six year old. We get dressed up and make a real date of it!

    This high tea is beautiful, I love the detail in presentation to me this is what makes a high tea so special… the attention to detail, I like all the treat to be very mini, so I can try just a bite of everything before I fill up too much :)

    • says

      All the things I ate were great. One thing I learned was that no matter what you’re serving, all items should roughly be the same size. Black hat chef Bernt Uber told me that. I won’t forget it. :)

  3. says

    This is a high tea event I wouldn’t mind going to. Everything looks scrumptious! My first high tea experience was in London at the Basil Street Hotel. There’s something about crustless mini sandwiches and scones with my black tea and cream that I just LOVE! :) Thank you for sharing this post with us Maureen.
    Anne ~ Uni Homemaker recently posted..Baked Eggs Picadillo Style

  4. says

    I have heard of high-tea, but didn’t realize how gorgeous and involved it was. Everything looks amazing! How sweet of them to share this with you! Hugs, Terra

  5. says

    G’day! What an ABSOLUTELY gorgeous high tea, true!
    I had only invited (with a friend) to the Dilmah high tea in Adelaide a couple of years ago!
    I was PLEASANTLY surprised… the foods for your tea look yummy!
    WISH we lived closer, as would love to invite you to a shared bloggers high tea! :)
    Cheers! Joanne

  6. says

    I’ve never been to a high, mid or low tea for that matter but would love to. And enjoying it in such congenial company … a feast indeed.

  7. says

    How lovely to have been invited. I don’t think high teas are all that common in the US. I think it’s a terribly British thing to do. I do love the sound of those tarts straight from the oven and I recognise Danielle from her stint on Master Chef. Sounds like this was very good fun xx

    • says

      I was invited for a $50 donation. :) It was worth it because I was much more comfortable headed to the Dilmah thing. Maybe the yanks will catch on to what a great experience a high tea can be.

  8. Lynn says

    You asked if readers had attended a high tea … Yes, several times fortunately. There are several places in Perth which offer high teas on an infrequent basis. My particular favourite was held at the Hyatt hotel in the city – spoilt for choice, it was absolutely magnificent, and I certainly never needed to eat dinner following the sumptuous feast!

  9. says

    High tea is one of those experiences that should be magical, and so if it isn’t, it’s bitterly disappointing. I’ve only been to two but am grateful both were excellent – I’m delighted your first one was too :)

  10. says

    I have been to a few high teas, and enjoyed them all…especially the one in Victoria, Fairmont Empress.
    I like the setting , everything looks fabulous and very elegant…what a great event Maureen.
    Hope you are having a lovely weekend 😀

  11. says

    I’ve been to a few high teas – I love them. But my favourite High Tea ever was when I was in Sydney for work and extended my stay over the weekend and invited my nana up to stay at my hotel in the city with me. We had a wonderful weekend together that included a very decadent high tea at the QVB for brunch. So lovely. Thankfully my nana’s sweet tooth is as big as my own 😉

  12. says

    I haven’t been to Scrumptious Reads. I’ll definitely be checking it out.

    I’ve only been to High Tea once. It was at the Penninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. It was very fancy with real silver teapots, Tiffany plates and dainty treats. It was a lot of fun!

    • says

      You haven’t? Once you visit you’ll love it as much as the rest of us do. For a food blogger or serious home cook – it’s our local. :)

  13. says

    I have had the pleasure of attending high tea at Glen Eyrie Castle just minutes from my home, it is absolutely enchanting. I could spend an entire afternoon eating scones with Devonshire Crème and sipping tea. It is such a departure from seeing people gobble down food in restaurants, somehow the world just melts away for a little bit.
    What a treat for you! These ladies really outdid themselves, exquisite attention to every detail. So lovely. :)

  14. says

    What lovely little offerings indeed, and I would have happily had your share of salmon :) I love the sound of a cookbook bookshop, I would need my husband’s presence to stop me spending the whole months budget at once!

  15. says

    I have been to more than a few and I love love love the sandwiches, the dainties, the pretense and the tea. And, I never drink tea anywhere else, but somehow it is absolutely delicious at a high tea. I have hosted casual “high teas” with all the fancy sandwiches and dainties and bits and bites and teas… and cups and saucers and flowers and loved every single minute of it. The last “sort of” one I did was for my mom’s 8oth birthday ( pics are small and squiggly – but it was FUN!

  16. says

    Dear Maureen, What a great experience. I wish I could have been sitting next to you. I love food too!!
    I am happy for you .

    Blessings dear. Catherine xox

  17. says

    Brits (sadly) don’t seem to do afternoon tea anymore… it’s all about TV, video games and convenience sadly. The tea looks lovely though – I wish I could have been there, though are you sure it’s a “high tea”? The difference between the different stages of “afternoon” tea (cream tea, full tea, etc) are quite distinct from a “high tea”, which I think was traditionally a working class meal served after 5pm consisting of things like pies. Afternoon tea is more of the ladies social occasion! :)

  18. says

    This looks quite lovely. I absolutely love going to high tea and have hosted a couple of them. I never get tired of them and they are so relaxing and a great way to try lots of tasty little morsels without feeling guilty.

  19. says

    Maureen, what is it about “finger sandwiches” that makes tea time seem special? Every delicacy looked as wonderful as you described. The one (and only) I’ve ever experienced was at Harrods in London many, many, MANY moons ago. (Still a highlight in my “foodie” life when I recall how it looked, tasted, and “felt” — only I don’t think my level of appreciation was cultivated to the extent it is now.) I’m sure you’ll remember this occasion for many moons to come! :)

    • says

      Harrods? I don’t think the one I went to would compare. I’ve only shopped at Harrods maybe 5 times in my life and each time was an experience.

      • says

        Maureen, I was young and dumb and didn’t fully appreciate it. What I wouldn’t give to go back now… or to sit at the lovely table you shared above! As far as I’m concerned, toss comparison out the window. Tea time is an “event” whether it’s a small, intimate affair or hosted at Harrods. I enjoyed yours immensely!

  20. says

    Mmmm… what a yummy event. I would be so enthralled with the food… I may forget to drink the tea. :) I love tea sandwiches… we have a lot of them at parties.

  21. says

    My first high tea was in the suburbs of New Jersey about 20 years ago. I didn’t know what to wear. I came from work in a suit (with pants), the other ladies who lunch were in dresses and hats! I had no idea what clotted cream was but the jam was good. I left to go grocery shopping.

  22. says

    Every month, a group of friends and I visit a different place for high tea. It is so much fun! Each place has a different twist. Some are more formal and traditional, and others bring a modern flair. I think it is a good balance of sweet and savory. We are going to our next tea on Saturday!

  23. says

    Maureen, I’m an afternoon tea addict! Been giving them and going to them all my life. Going to one this afternoon given by a friend I introduced to tea more than 20 years ago. She was immediately hooked! Wish I could have been at THIS one, all the more fun because it was your first! Are you hooked? I’ve posted lots of tea stuff on my blog. In fact, my recipe index page has a Teatime category.
    Jean | recently posted..Sourdough Sandwich Bread – Wild Yeast Bread

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