The English's Cup of High Tea

Tea tray beautifully attired with lacy covers, silver teaware, lemon cake with honey take us back to the Victorian era.

Published: 27th April 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th April 2014 04:02 PM   |  A+A-


I have always been intrigued by the English tea, and often wonder what was it like during the melodramatic Victorian era. Tea kettles whistling by the kitchen’s bay window, the tea tray beautifully attired with lacy tray covers, floral lacy napkins, silver teaware, English cookies, lemon cake or marble cake with honey, placed neatly on a round table covered by a white crisp damask table cloth. White curly haired butler and maid in black skirt and white frilly shirt pouring tea in fancy flowery tea cups well fitted on the tea saucer, with probably a spoonful of honey and a hint of a fresh cream poured from the silver milk pot, followed by a few freshly baked cookies and tea cake. Hmmmm!

I was again transported to some castle in the English countryside sitting by the lake full of lilies and swans, sipping the most aromatic tea. To tell you the truth what wakes me up is the Punjabi in me that wants to dip the cookies in the tea and slurp it. What an anti-climax and I wonder what would the curly haired butler and the maid alongside the most beautiful and gracious hostess would think of me. Ha ha, that’s life.

Last summer, when I was in London, I was visiting the English countryside near Oxford where I was invited by this elderly British couple to their estate. Here my dream English tea came true. The same butler, the maid in black and white, and a gracious English host. My English tea was served with macaroons filled with coconut and hazelnut and a lemon glaze cake. The lady explained what the English tea culture was and how it started. She told me a proper tea was a gathering of friends or relatives with light refreshments and chat. Later the working and farming communities adopted the afternoon tea, but menu comprised more hearty foods and included meat dishes. They called this high tea, as it was served on a high dining table instead of lower small tables. Presently, personalised hand-written letters are sent for afternoon tea parties and email for a larger and informal ones followed by a phone call which depends upon the occasion.

A fall tea might be decorated with a bowl of fall leaves, pine cones, anything from the yard. Candles or lovely kerosene lamps can set the mood. Decorate them on mantles and side tables and put them in front of large mirrors for a great effect. Flowers are a must. The Victorians loved the roses—a neatly arranged bunch would definitely add to the grandeur.

When I looked around the lady’s living room, I was not surprised to find all the elements of decoration for a pleasant afternoon tea in place

On some coaxing, I was able to get the most delicious lemon glaze cake recipe from her, which she insisted was her great grandmother’s. So here I share a recipe straight from the Victorian age.

Lemon1.jpgLemon Glaze Tea Cake


■ Eggs-3

■ Sugar powdered-1 cup

■ Butter-1 cup

■ Baking powder-2 tsp

■ Lemon juice-of 2 lemons

■ Lemon zest-of 1/2 lemon

■ Flour-1 cup

■ Yellow edible colour-1/4 tea spoon

For Glaze

■ Lemon juice of 2 lemons

■ Powdered sugar-3 table spoons

■ Lemon slice-2 for decoration


■ Whisk egg whites in a bow till white peals form

■ Add sugar and whisk again with electric whisk

■ Add butter and yellow colour and whisk again till completely blended

■ Add flour and baking powder

■ Whisk the batter adding the lemon juice and the zest

■ Line the baking dish with little

butter and pour the batter and bake at 170º c for about 25 minutes till the fork slides and comes clean form the cake being made

■ Bake only on lower heat

■ Remove and cool

For Glaze

■ Add sugar and lemon juice and keep aside

■ Once cake is cooled, gently spread the glaze and keep in fridge to set

■ Eat with your English tea HMMMM!


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