Afternoon Tea Parties by Susannah Blake
‘Afternoon tea parties’ was the result of a holiday in the Scottish Borders; we had the use of an Aga and something that could fairly be described as a drawing room coupled with the sort of weather that encourages you to stay indoors. I found the book in a foray into Melrose, we had spent the morning at Abbotsford and where very much in the right mood for tea, so it felt like serendipity and had to be bought.
My partner in tea is very much of the opinion that it’s an excellent institution sadly neglected in the modern age. I don’t quite share his evangelical passion for the scone, but on the whole agree with him. I definitely think tea has become an under used social occasion, my first thought on reading this book was how much more fun it would be to cook for a tea party then lunch or dinner, cake is a very acceptable left over and there’s such a lot of room for creativity.
My passion for cookbooks was born from the realisation that I was falling into the trap of using the same key flavours in everything with the end result that regardless of the key ingredient it all tasted similar. It’s the same with menu planning – all too easy to fall back on old favourites, and that’s the pleasure of a book like this. Susannah Blake has outlined twenty different themed teas, mostly following the formula of three sweets and a savoury, with a different tea blend used each time. I don’t think there’s much that I couldn’t find amongst the many other cookbooks I share my kitchen with, but none of those other books have the same clarity of purpose.
I have it on good authority that both the Russian and French teas are authentic. Suggestions for a Champagne tea, or a winter wonderland spread in frosty white and silver, or a floral garden tea (with subtle use of rosemary, lavender and rose flavours) enchant me. The gentleman’s tea that we made was perfect for the occasion (fortunately it included scones, but we would have had them anyway).