My First High Tea

My First High Tea

by Maureen on July 7, 2013

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+.

scones

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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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

foodwanderings July 7, 2013 at 12:20 am

Maureen, this high tea looks so exquisite. Believe it or not I haven’t been to one. I should. One day. Shulie

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 10:37 am

Up until a few months ago we’d both be in the same boat. Now you need to do a high tea… organize one and invite me. :)

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Liz July 7, 2013 at 3:58 am

Wow, every single dish looks superb…even those dreaded salmon balls! And though I drink tea everyday, I didn’t know I was supposed to be stirring, then steeping. I’m trying that tomorrow! What a marvelous high tea.
Liz recently posted..Wheat Berry and Tuna Salad #FrenchFridayswithDorie

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Rhonda July 7, 2013 at 4:01 am

Everything looks so pretty and delicate! I would love to do something like this.

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john@kitchenriffs July 7, 2013 at 4:41 am

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!
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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 10:36 am

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.

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Louise July 7, 2013 at 6:15 am

Congratulations on your first High Tea, Maureen!

I have always wanted to attend a High Tea but like you, up until now that is, I’ve never been invited. It’s just as I imagined, lovely people, perfect setting and beautiful food!

Thank you so much for sharing…
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CCU July 7, 2013 at 7:23 am

This would have been brilliant my friend, such classy food and such a lovely ambience :D

Cheers
CCU
CCU recently posted..The Sexy Vegan Kitchen #1: Wistful Walnut-Pear Salad

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

Everyone was so kind and made me feel welcome and all but MayKing, Julie and Sally Lynch (Tastetrekker) were strangers to me. :)

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Wizzy July 7, 2013 at 8:11 am

Never been to any tea events. This looks awesome. Perfectly delightful way to spend an afternoon.

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Wizzy, you should go to a high tea even if it’s just once. It’s a lovely experience.

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GourmetGetaways July 7, 2013 at 8:42 am

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 :)

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

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. :)

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Anne ~ Uni Homemaker July 7, 2013 at 10:37 am

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

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 10:38 am

You’re never too old to learn something and this was a learning experience for me. Thanks for the comment, Anne!

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Terra July 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

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

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I loved every minute

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

What a seriously gorgeous high tea and I absolutely love the setting too! It’s so pretty! :D

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm

What better place to have high tea than in a cookbook shop?

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Joanne T Ferguson July 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

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

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Joanne T Ferguson July 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

G’day! What an ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS high tea!
I was invited (with a friend) to the Dilmah high tea in Adelaide a few years ago,
The food are your high tea looks very yummy!
WISH we lived closer as could invite you to a shared blogger’s high tea!
Cheers! Joanne
Joanne T Ferguson recently posted..EMWTTP — Spicy Black Bean Soup With…

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A_Boleyn July 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

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.

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm

You’ll have to change that! It’s great fun.

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Hotly Spiced July 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm

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

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm

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.

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Lynn July 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

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!

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm

LOL isn’t that wonderful. Everything at this high tea was wonderful but it started at 11am so we could all enjoy dinner :)

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Justagirlfromaamchimumbai July 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm

That is such a fabulous spread, it is a treat for the eyes. Love it.

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Thanks, it was a terrific event.

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Kari @ bite-sized thoughts July 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm

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 :)

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Juliana July 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm

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 :D

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I just got back from the Queensland Garden Expo. Today I learned all about Sri Lankan spices :)

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Jas@AbsolutelyJas July 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm

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 ;)

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Maureen July 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I need to sit right by nana then – and you on the other side :)

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Claire @ Claire K Creations July 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm

You lucky duck what a high tea to cut your teeth on! I love that shop too! Next time you’re in Brisbane we’ll have to catch up x

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Maureen July 8, 2013 at 7:33 am

LOL I just told Stephanie that Scrumptious Reads was “the local” for food lovers – I should have known it was yours too.

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Lisa the Gourmet Wog July 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm

the bookstore is such a gorgeous and fitting background to the stunning table arrangement!
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Maureen July 8, 2013 at 7:34 am

The location was perfect and everyone wanted to talk about food or cooking or both!

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Stephanie - The Dessert Spoon July 7, 2013 at 11:28 pm

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!

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Maureen July 8, 2013 at 7:33 am

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. :)

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Judy @Savoring Today July 8, 2013 at 12:33 am

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. :)

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Maureen July 8, 2013 at 7:32 am

Okay high tea at Glen Eyrie Castle trumps high tea at Scrumptious Reads but only just. :)

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Lizzy (Good Things) July 8, 2013 at 6:10 am

What a wonderful experience, Maureen. I don’t think I’ve ever been to high tea in my life. May I please help myself to one of those pretty little ribbon sandwiches?

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Maureen July 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

you chose the right one, Liz!

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David Crichton July 8, 2013 at 6:12 am

Looks like an afternoon well spent. I’m pleased the Brits have left some culinary legacy.
David Crichton recently posted..Crab Risotto and Avocado Ice Cream

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Maureen July 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

LOL my experience as a yank indicates they brought high tea home with them when they left in 1776. :)

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Shirley from Rhubarb Whine July 8, 2013 at 8:01 am

Danielle is an amazing chef, and Julie has the best bookstore ever. With May thrown in 9how hilariously funny is she!!?) and your good self, I can imagine the day would have been superb.

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The Café Sucre Farine July 8, 2013 at 10:04 am

Maureen, next time you get to go to a high tea, please let me know. I’ll sell all my furniture so I can get over there and go with you. It looks so incredible!!! :)

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Denise Browning@From Brazil To You July 8, 2013 at 11:17 am

What a gorgeous table…I would love to have sit at that table and enjoyed tea time.
Denise Browning@From Brazil To You recently posted..Mouthwatering 4th of July Recipes to celebrate America’s Birthday!!!

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Krista July 8, 2013 at 11:52 am

How marvelous!!! :-) This looks absolutely divine. :-) I’ve made High Tea at home and for friends, that sort of thing, but the first REAL High Tea I attended was at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, Canada. Oh my. It was exquisite and such a special experience. :-)
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InTolerant Chef July 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

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!

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A Canadian Foodie July 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

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 (http://www.acanadianfoodie.com/2010/05/08/a-time-to-celebrate-helen-my-mom-on-her-80th-birthday/) pics are small and squiggly – but it was FUN!
:)
V

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MyMansBelly July 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Gorgeous!

I haven’t been to a high tea, but I’ve been to Japanese, Korean and Chinese tea ceremonies. Which are pretty much tea only…none of those lovely things you got to eat.
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Catherine July 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm

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

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Maureen July 9, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I know how you love food, Catherine. Your food is amazing!

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ChgoJohn July 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I’ve never been to a high tea, Maureen, and now I see what I’ve been missing. What a lovely affair and how smart of you to attend one prior to your competition. :)
ChgoJohn recently posted..Farmers Market Pasta

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Laura (Tutti Dolci) July 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

What a wonderful experience, the food looks delicious!

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tania@mykitchenstories.com.au July 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I have been to a few high teas but this one looks the best. You are a lucky girl indeedy!

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Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen July 9, 2013 at 2:23 am

How fancy and fabulous! I’ve only had tea at a Victoria Tea Room near us. Love the tradition!

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Maureen July 9, 2013 at 10:40 pm

It was a lovely “first time.” :)

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yummychunklet July 10, 2013 at 1:06 am

YUM!

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Charles July 11, 2013 at 2:34 am

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! :)

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Maureen July 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I think it’s afternoon tea in England and in the US and Australia we only have one and it’s high. :)

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foodfashionandflow July 11, 2013 at 4:25 am

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.

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Maureen July 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I should host one now that I know how to brew tea :)

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Kimby | a little lunch July 11, 2013 at 6:00 am

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! :)

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Maureen July 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

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.

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Kimby | a little lunch July 13, 2013 at 6:29 am

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!

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Ramona July 12, 2013 at 10:37 pm

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.

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Mary Frances July 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm

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.

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Maureen July 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm

LOL I laughed so hard when I read this. Thankfully nobody wore hats or fancy dresses to this high tea.

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Mary Frances July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm

LOL!!! Thank you!!

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Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice July 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm

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!

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Maureen July 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Take some photos! :)

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