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High Tea

by Hardy Haberman
Though it sounds like a creation of the irrepressable Hyacinth Bucket (of the BBC's Keeping Up Appearances), High Tea originated as a British working class tradition. "High" refered to the way it was taken, sitting atop stools in a tea shop or standing at a counter or buffet table. It was a cross between afternoon tea and supper, and for many it was the main meal of the day.

The afternoon tea idea began around the mid 1700's as a way to ward off the inevitable hunger before dinner. This tradition led John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich to make his famous innovation of putting meats or other fillings between two pieces of bread. The Tea Sandwich was born!

Today, it has become a more elegant affair. Now served in many restaurants and hotels across the world, this affair has become less a working class meal and more of an event. In some cities, it is a "power" business event. Having High Tea with a client is preferred to the more traditional "night out" and offers a much better atmosphere for discussing business.

When to serve it? The high time of the day, around 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

What to serve? Tea sandwiches for starts, but traditional British High Teas might include Welsh Rabbit, Scotch Woodcock and other meat and fish dishes. Also, puddings, cakes, crumpets and scones served with jellies, marmalades and spreads of various kinds.

What kind to serve? There are more than 1,500 varieties grown in dozens of countries however the prominent producers are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Malawi, and Indonesia . With so many to choose from a variety selection seems only fitting. Though herbal and fruit infusions have become popular they are not classified as true "teas", and purists will recoil from their inclusion at the table.

Why? It's the civilized thing to do. The tradition of afternoon tea offers a pleasant break in the day, a chance for conversation, relaxation and of course a good cup of tea!

Tea Importers

Major Classifications

A very rare variety made from only the plant's buds. These are usually dried and packaged without any further processing. Included in this classification are:
  • Pai Mu Tan
  • Silvertip

This one is harvested by hand in Japan. The stems are removed and the leaves are rolled on a heated plate to give it the curled appearance. These are then placed in paper trays and set over a charcoal fire to dry them completely. Included in this classification are:
  • Formosa Gunpowder
  • Green Sencha
  • Genmai cha
  • Japanese Sakura
  • Japanese Spider-Leg Kokeicha
  • Jasmine
  • Lung Ching
  • Pinhead Gunpowder
  • Snowy Mountain Jian
  • Temple of Heaven Gunpowder
  • Young Hyson

A semi-fermented tea whose leaves are rolled and allowed to begin the fermentation process. Once the edges of the leaves trun brown, they are heat dried to stop the fermentation process. Included in this classification are:
  • China Ti Kwan Yin
  • Formosa Oolong Black Dragon
  • Imperial Gold Formosa Oolong

These are allowed to wither naturally in trays. After about eighteen hours they are rolled to bruise the leaf. This starts the fermentation. Leaves turn dark brown during fermentation and begin to release the familiar "black tea" scent. When the leaves have fermented to the desired level, they are fire-dried to stop the fermentation process. These are frequently named for the region in which they are grown. Included in this classification are:
  • Assam
  • Ceylon
  • China Black
  • Congou
  • Darjeeling
  • Kenya
  • Lapsang Souchong
  • Nilgiri
  • Sri Lanka Black
  • Tanzania Ambangulu
  • Keemun
  • Yunnan

Specialty Blends
  • China Rose Congu
  • Coronation
  • Earl Grey
  • Earl Green
  • English Breakfast
  • English Tea Garden
  • Irish Breakfast
  • Prince of Wales
  • Prince Vladimir Russian Blend
  • Queen Anne
  • Russian Caravan

Related Web Sites

Where to go
Here are a few of the grand places If you have additional suggestions, please email us with the information.

The Bellevue Hotel
1415 Chancellor Court, Philadelphia, PA

Beverly Hills Hotel
9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA

Biltmore Hotel
506 S. Grand Avenue, Hollywood, CA
Classic afternoon spot

The Charleston Place Hotel
130 Market Street, Charleston, SC

The Copley Plaza Hotel
138 St. James Avenue, Boston, MA

The Fairmont Empress Hotel
721 Government Street, Victoria, BC, Canada

The Four Seasons Hotel
98 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX
Not in summer months

Imperial Tea Court
1411 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA, 415-788-6080

Magnolia & Ivy Tea Parlors
104 South Peachtree, Cuthbert, GA
109 Church Street, Plains, GA
114 East Main Street, Parrott, GA
117 Broad Street, Richland, GA

J. P. Morgan Library
29 E. 36th Street at Madison Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-0610

Neiman Marcus
The Zodiac Room, Commerce & Ervay Streets, Dallas, TX

The Peabody Hotel
149 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 901-529-4000
The famous "Duck Walk" is not to be missed!

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago
160 E. Pearson Street, Chicago, IL, 312-266-1000
Served every afternoon

The Seasons Restaurant
Long Grove, IL

The Waldorf-Astoria
301 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 212-355-3000
Daily in the Cocktail Terrace

The Willard Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 202-628-9100

Windsor Court Hotel
300 Gravier Street, New Orleans, LA, 504-523-6000
Extensive menu

World Teas

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