Doooo allow me to introduce my daaaah-ling friend Miss Georgina Barnes, citizen of England, world-adventurer, and my personal adviser regarding traditional English tea.
How do the English do High Tea? Here’s what Georgie had to say:
“I can offer advice for your High Tea question as I was lucky enough to have partaken in a most excellent High Tea while I was away last week! It came out on a three tiered plate, as is traditional, and it consisted of sandwiches (we had ham and pickle, but I believe cucumber sandwiches are the traditional choice), these were on the bottom tray. The middle plate was scones and jam (strawberry or raspberry is the norm) and cream (this combo is an absolute MUST for any serious High Tea!), the cream should preferably be clotted, but whipped will suffice for the more health-conscious!). Then on the highest tier we had an excellent assortment of cakes, including the traditional millionaires shortbread (this has a biscuity base, caramel middle and chocolate on top), we also had some chocolate cake, some amazing apple crumble cake and some small meringues. It was all delicious and was washed down with our lots of tea from our individual tea pots (loose leaf of course for the best flavour!) Marvelous!!!”
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, a good old-fashioned tea in England. I imagine this being served to the Queen every afternoon, in a garden filled with pink roses, bird baths, and sculptured hedges. I also imagine I’m wrong about that.
If you aren’t the Queen, and/or you’re not in England, where might you find such a spread of goodies? At the Adorabelle Tea Room in Steveston. Right-o! Located in the town’s quaint old courthouse, Adorabelle was on my list of “Places To Visit When Mom Visits.” And guess who’s visiting…..my Mother!
She took my sister and me for our first High Tea when we were kids, and we’ve been enjoying them ever since. If you ever get the chance to hang out with my mom, you really ought to. Her name is Ina, she’s the best, and everyone who meets her knows it.
She was thrilled to add Adorabelle to our itinerary. We went yesterday afternoon when it was nice and quiet, and each had the full tea for $23. My friend Wendy, the one visiting from DC, also joined us and we had a truly lovely time.
Compared to the Nana-filled, quilt-covered walls of the tearooms I’m used to in Victoria, Adorabelle is quite modern. It’s also feminine to the core, with black, white, and various shades of pink filling the interior.
Napkins are rolled into roses and placed in cream-coloured teacups, and the “sky” is perpetually blue. The room’s not crowded with furniture, so guests can sit comfortably with plenty of space at each table.
We chose our loose tea (the strong Steveston Blend) from their fairly thorough selection, and enjoyed it in individual teapots kept warm with felt tea cozies.
The Steveston blend is….how would the English describe it……BRACING! It’s slightly bitter, and almost smokey. In other words, it’s a serious tea.
If you’re more in the mood for something a little less intense and more floral, try the Paris Blend.
As for the food, the menu was pretty much exactly what Georgie described! On the bottom of our three-tiered stand we enjoyed four kinds of tea sandwiches: egg salad, cucumber and cream cheese, chicken waldorf, and cream cheese with dill, lox, and a salty little caper on top.
Such dainty tea sandwiches may seem innocent, but they’re actually quite tough to prepare well; the soft bread begins to dry out almost immediately upon exposure to air, so they must be made quickly, neatly, and kept covered until the moment they’re plated. These sandwiches were excellent, with cucumbers so thinly sliced they were translucent.
My favourites were the well-seasoned egg salad and cream cheese with dill and lox. I could have happily taken 20 more for dinner!
The middle tier had four freshly-baked scones: two raisin, and two orange.
They were excellent, served with raspberry jam and cream which we spread on generously. The cream wasn’t clotted (it’s a very expensive commodity here in the colonies), but it wasn’t just whipped, either.
My guess is that Cathy, Adorabelle’s wonderful owner and chef, adds a bit of cream cheese to the cream and whips it until smooth. Whatever her trick, it was delightful.
And now, to the top tier. This is always my favourite and you can see why: it’s filled with dessert!
Cathy had prepared five kinds of sweets including cream-filled strawberries, vanilla cupcakes with raspberry buttercream, Earl Grey shortbread, coconut tarts filled with lemon curd and blueberries, and dark chocolate petit-fours garnished with fat, ripe raspberries.
My favourite? The coconut lemon curd tarts, since they combined two of my most beloved flavours and textures.
My only real wish would be for one more savoury flavour, such as a mini quiche or cheddar tart, something to boost up the lunch vs dessert side of things a bit. Savoury tarts aside however, they offer a gorgeous, thoughtfully-prepared spread, and it’s one that both adults and kids can enjoy. They host children’s birthday parties, and have a white “tickle trunk” (any other former Mr. Dress-Up alumni out there?) filled with costume pieces they can wear while eating their egg salad pinwheels. The children’s menu costs $16 and includes 4 sweets, 1 scone with jam and cream, 3 ‘kid-friendly’ tea sandwiches, and a pot of decaffeinated loose tea or apple juice.
I highly recommend a trip to Adorabelle for High Tea, and think this would be a perfect activity for a rainy day this winter. As I said, their skies are always blue! And who would approve of that? Well this lady, of course.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available
Reservations recommended. They offer 4 afternoon tea services from Wednesday through Sunday. Call ahead to book your time.