When I was a youngster, all of the finest hotels hosted an elegant afternoon tea. My mom had taught me when to put the milk — not cream, heavens! — and how the different courses progressed, from tea sandwiches to scones and clotted cream to sweets. As I got older, sometimes I wore hats to tea. I also learned that as dainty an activity afternoon tea is, gentlemen love it too!
Afternoon tea, according to Wiki, was invented by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess is best remembered as the creator of the British meal “afternoon tea.” whilst visiting the 5th Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle in the mid-1840s. During the 18th century, dinner came to be served later and later in the day until, by the early 19th century, the normal time was between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. An extra meal called luncheon had been created to fill the midday gap between breakfast and dinner, but as this new meal was very light, the long afternoon with no refreshment at all left people feeling hungry.
She found a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. The Duchess found taking an afternoon snack to be such a perfect refreshment that she soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon tea quickly became an established and convivial repast in many middle and upper class households.
Queen Mary later declared that the perfect duration to steep tea is 3 minutes, to which I adhere.
Right across the Rocky River from the Cleveland city limits is Emerald Necklace Inn. In one quaint building, they have a bed & breakfast, a salon where you can get really good haircuts and a traditional tea salon. The salon is very feminine, with antiques and mementos of the late Princesses Diana and Grace. Little special touches abound, such as porcelain flower napkin holders. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to experience it!
The selection of teas is comprehensive, with white, green, black, herb and fruit teas. The full “high tea” — there are several options there, too — includes a pot of tea. seasonal cup of soup, fresh scone and tea bread plate served with house-made lemon curd, Devonshire cream and preserves, an assortment of 3 tea sandwiches, house-made quiche with fresh fruit, chef’s elegant dessert or 5 piece assortment.
Everything there is made on the premises, using herbs and other goodies from the garden. Presentation on floral china patterns is lovely. Cool jazz plays in the background and people seem to dress up, special-occasion style. They host Princess tea parties for the young and young at heart.