On a recent trip to Europe, I stopped long enough in London to have afternoon tea but didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. In Ireland, I also didn’t have afternoon tea but I did have some very nice lunches in hotels where afternoon tea was served. I was sooo close!
In Belgium, a simple cup of tea is served so elegantly that it may as well be considered a mini-afternoon tea! Not only is the tea served on a tray with all the necessary fixings (sugar cubes and a slice of lemon in a little ramekin) but it is also accompanied by a chocolate or a cookie! The most impressive detail, however, is the loose leaf tea (how cute is that teapot strainer?!).
In fact, coffee and hot chocolate are also served elegantly! These were served at a concessions counter at an ice rink in Leuven! Makes me wonder how elegantly they serve hot beverages in restaurants and coffee shops?!
Towards the end of my trip, I started to feel the regret of my indecision of not taking the time to experience afternoon tea in Europe. I awoke from a restless sleep on a British Airways flight (business class) where an attendant asked if I wanted to partake in their tea service. I looked around to see what others were having and realized they were having afternoon tea! Ask me if I was giddy!? 🙂 You have no idea!
The sandwiches were delicious (top layer to bottom layer): Wensleydale cheese with plum chutney on malted bread, Aberdeen Angus roast beef with English mustard and micro watercress on white bread, and North Atlantic prawns with lemon mayonnaise on oatmeal bread. The desserts (chocolate eclair, lemon cupcake, and raspberry cream sponge) were only okay but heck, they were so cute and beautiful that I forgave them. 🙂
The warm fruit scone was served with Rodda’s clotted cream and a little jar of Wilkin & Sons strawberry preserves. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with scones because it’s hard to find a good scone. [Digression: My first experience with a scone was on a British Airways flight over 20 years ago. It was so dry and rock hard that I didn’t eat more than a bite. An older, white haired gentleman sitting next to me asked if I was going to eat the clotted cream. He was so happy when I said no and he expertly applied it to his scone which he seemed to enjoy very much. I’m sorry to say that the best lemon curd or jam in the world cannot save a terrible scone! Conversely, an excellent scone does not need condiments. But scones are always served with condiments so I’m convinced that scones are simply vehicles for eating condiments!] In this case, I’m happy to report that the scone was decent but I hate raisins so I meticulously removed them before consuming. The flight attendant noticed me doing this and offered me another scone, a buttermilk one without raisins! My goodness, how nice is that? She said I reminded her of her daughter who “likes” pepperoni pizza but always picks off the pepperoni before eating it. Made me laugh. 😀
After passing up every opportunity to have afternoon tea in Europe, it was a happy coincidence that the very last meal I had on my trip was afternoon tea!
And what a nice tea it was! 🙂
“Flying has changed how we imagine our planet, which we have seen whole from space, so that even the farthest nations are ecological neighbors. It has changed our ideas about time. When you can gird the earth at 1,000 m.p.h., how can you endure the tardiness of a plumber? Most of all, flying has changed our sense of our body, the personal space in which we live, now elastic and swift. I could be in Bombay for afternoon tea if I wished. My body isn’t limited by its own weaknesses; it can rush through space.”
— Diane Ackerman, ‘Traveling Light,’ op-ed in the New York Times, 11 January 1997