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6th October 2012
Catching up with friends and family is as much a part of Christmas as sharing in some great food and drink. Taking afternoon tea is a fine way to do both!
Come December, many top city and country hotels will be serving their festive afternoon tea menus, often in fabulously decorated, festive surroundings. There’s something so atmospheric about dining in a room with a glittering tree and a roaring fire, especially if there’s a pianist playing carols in the background. Many of the London hotels offer just that. Take Claridges in London, for example, where a choir sings of glad tidings while you dine on the French pastries, stollen, and Christmas cake, all served with a White Christmas speciality tea. Or The Montagu Arms Hotel in Beaulieu, Hampshire, where the excellent afternoon tea is served by a roaring fire in the pretty 17th century country house that sits in the heart of the New Forest.
Davenports Tea Room in Cheshire rejoices in putting on a lavish Victorian Christmas Afternoon Tea. The whole place decked out with holly and festive cheer and staff are dressed up in authentic Victorian attire. The menu takes on a festive twist with cherry and cinnamon scones (unless an alternative is preferred) and variety of Christmas themed cakes including a mini-minced tart and Christmas cake all presented on vintage bone china.
Some pastry chefs will go out of their way to come up with imaginative, but seasonal alternatives to the ubiquitous mince pie. In the past, December diners at The Connaught have been treated to marvels such as festive chestnut biscuits with black current jelly and cream, or the silky-sounding vanilla panna cotta with pear and yuzu compote. Divine.
And yes, chefs will not recoil from putting turkey sandwiches on the menu, although they will be a far cry from the dry, unappetising Boxing Day offerings of days gone by. The Dorchester, for example, is serving theirs this year with sausage meat stuffing on basil bread.
For those who cannot dine before the end of the year, gift vouchers are the ideal alternative. Most Tea Guild members sell them online. They make a fabulous gift and tea can then be taken at any time throughout the year. Browns Hotel in London wraps theirs carefully in tissue paper inside a stylish silver box. Just go to the directory here to find a Tea Guild member near you.
If you do go for tea this year, remember you can often pick up some great gifts while you are there. If art is your thing, then Mistletoe House Tearoom & Gallery, Combe, Presteigne and Abbey Cottage Tearooms, New Abbey, Dumfries both have art galleries and gift shops, as does Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s art nouveau masterpiece Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow.
Edible gifts are always a favourite and many tea rooms have bakeries which sell wonderfully packaged delicacies such as the famous Elisabeth Botham & Sons in Whitby, Yorkshire or Tiny Tim’s Tearoom in Canterbury.
And then of course there’s the tea itself. What better present for a tea lover than a caddy of fine leaf from a Tea Guild member! Northern Tea Merchants in Derbyshire has a truly wonderful specialist shop with all manner of accessories, as does Ginger & Pickles in Cheshire. Heading south, try Orange Pekoe or The Savoy in London.
You may think it is a tad early to be talking about the C word, but here at The Tea Guild we know just how busy venues get in December, so get your diaries out, decide on a date and book that table!
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