By Jessica Meddows The English have an entire culture dedicated to tea: how to make the perfect cup of tea, tea cake, scones with tea, afternoon tea, morning tea, and high tea. This is something that most of Australia has taken to with relish, particularly the high tea aspect. What Australian woman (and the occasional man) doesn’t love a spot of champagne with their tea? North America seems interested in, yet somewhat bemused by the tea culture. Sure, some of them drink it. Some even have herbal tea preferences. But generally speaking, morning tea, afternoon tea and high tea are indistinguishable concepts over here. Being Australian with half of my family born in Britain, I’m often at pains to explain the differences. And getting a good cup of tea isn’t the same when the most prevalent options are Starbucks, Second Cup or Tim Horton’s. In Sydney, Australia, high tea is a popular event with women. I’ve had divine high tea experiences at The Tea Room in the Queen Victoria Building, The Museum of Sydney Cafe, and The Observatory. On my last trip to Sydney, I was in the CBD for a cross-border contracting seminar (fascinating, yes?) and had some time to kill before I met up with my husband. I decided to delightfully waste that time at The Tea Salon. It describes itself on its website as:
a luxury haven where fashion enthusiasts can rest their weary feet and enjoy a decadent High Tea with friends after a morning of retail therapy
It’s a feminine and delicate lavender and pink affair, populated by women who lunch, women doing business meetings over pots of tea and families enjoying high tea. Despite being in the middle of a busy shopping centre, it feels private. The white wrought iron fencing and potted plants seclude it from the hubbub of Westfield and create its own space. It’s pastel, pretty, and very free of men. The menu is tempting: savoury and sweet scones, zucchini and haloumi fritters, beetroot and goat’s cheese tart, and assorted vegetarian sandwiches catching my eye. The dessert sections of the high tea are enticing as well: salted chocolate and coconut macaroons, strawberry and rhubarb tartlets, mini rose pannacottas with Persian fairy floss, and vanilla cupcakes with fresh passionfruit topping. But I’ve had lunch at my seminar, so tea and a slice of cake is in order, rather than a substantial lunch or full tiered high tea. I’m swayed by the champagne and cocktail lost, ordering a Pimms cup for my orange cake. The cake is a recommendation from my waitress who says that the chocolate cake is quite rich and people often leave portions of it. She says the orange cake is one of the quiet favourites people are surprise by. The Pimms tastes more strongly of orange than I’m used to, but the fizzy ginger ale is a good balance to the orange. I would have liked more citrus fruit in the cocktail, but I’m satisfied with the sprig of mint and curlicue of cucumber. The orange cake is delicious and moist, and has the surprise of candied pieces of orange rind in it. The cream cheese icing is a bit cold and comes away from the cake too easily, but it’s sweet and tasty, and a nice balance against the orange and the Pimms cup. Between the cake and the cocktail, I’m stuffed! But I can’t leave without ordering a tea. My choices are English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Russian Caravan, China Sencha, Lemongrass & Ginger, Chamomile & Spearmint, Scottish Breakfast, Turkish Apple, Darjeeling, Assam, Prince of Wales, Queen Mary, and Peppermint. I go with lemongrass and ginger – a tea obsession of mine. It’s fragrant and at the perfect temperature to drink, but I hear one of the waiters organising a table for 14 women next to me and decide its a good time to move on. It’s a pricey experience, coming out at $30.50 (plus a $4 tip) for a bit of cake, a drink, and a cup of tea. But that’s Sydney. Despite being pricey, it really is a lovely way to while away 45 minutes waiting for someone in the crowded CBD. Are you a tea lover? Or a coffee drinker? Is a cup of tea part of your daily routine? And do you enjoy going to high tea with friends and family?