High Tea: Not Just for Girly Girls
I’m in no way a girly girl. In fact, I can’t stand pink, glitter, or unicorns. But one thing I love that is rather girly is high tea at the Broadmoor Hotel and at Miramont Castle. Although both places expect impeccable manners, decorum, and etiquette, being a girly girl is, thankfully, not required.
High tea has a grand and strong tradition in the UK, where it started. Historically, British society only ate two meals a day, breakfast at around 8 a.m. and dinner at around 8 p.m., so it’s understandable that people might have experienced low blood sugar and wanted a bite or two, if not a whole meal, in the afternoon. Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, started the tradition of afternoon tea. Feeling rather peckish at around 4 p.m., she started requesting tea and a small snack to be served in her rooms. She asked a few lady friends to join her occasionally, and the idea took off from there. The less formal tea, or “low” tea, was served on low tables in a lady’s private rooms, whereas “high” tea was a bit more formal, but only because it was originally served at the dining table, the “high” table, and a larger party, including men, were invited.
High tea at the Miramont Castle has four courses, including canapes, fruit
parfait, and petit fours ranging from savory to sweet. A large selection of teas is available, arranged by caffeine strength in the seasonal menu. High tea at the Castle is served in the Queen’s Room, formerly the greenhouse when the Castle was originally constructed. The southern view was wonderfully welcome as the sun streamed through and warmed us on the cold day in February when we visited. I would have liked the pastries to have been baked the same day as they were served, but I suppose that depends on the number of reservations the Castle staff has to plan for.
The staff of the tea room strive for the air of authenticity, wearing period clothing and behaving with the strict manners of Victorian high society. Guests are encouraged to dress appropriately. Hats of various colors and styles, in keeping with the Victorian theme, are available for people of both genders who wish to wear them during their experience in the tea room. Afterward, guests can receive a discount on admission to the castle museum if they so choose.
High tea at the Broadmoor Hotel is fun, too. Served only in the summer at 4:00 p.m. sharp, the hotel’s high tea features not courses but a selection of up to nine tiny delicacies handmade daily in the Broadmoor’s five-star bakeries, along with toppings like clotted cream (thick whipped cream with no sugar) and lemon curd. Served by liveried wait staff, we enjoyed jasmine and Earl Grey teas by the beautiful Broadmoor Lake, with a fountain splashing in the nearby West Tower Lobby that added a calming effect. The south lawn is popular for weddings, and we were fortunate enough to enjoy watching a wedding photo shoot with our tea.
Of course the best part of having afternoon tea was the conversation. We tried to follow all the rules of etiquette, like pinching the teacup handle and lifting the pinkie rather than gripping the cup, or breaking the scone into bite-size pieces rather than smothering it with clotted cream and stuffing it into our mouths (which we did when no one was looking). The cost for high tea at both places is considerate, but sharing the experience with a good friend is worth the price.
I think I’ll start hosting afternoon teas at home. I have a low table and a dining table, so I can have my choice of low or high tea. I’ll have to learn to cut the crusts off tiny cucumber sandwiches, and I might wear a hat, but I refuse to wear anything pink or glittery.