Event themes: Planning a baby or wedding shower? It’s high time for high tea
One of the questions we get asked most frequently is how to make traditional events fun, exciting and fresh. It’s one we love because—in addition to delivering unforgettable catered fare—that’s exactly our specialty. And most often the question revolves around a baby or wedding shower.
Depending on where they’re staged and how, showers can be fairly staid events. Most of the time they involve a group of friends and family sharing a few dishes (sometimes catered, sometimes not), a slice or two of cake and a lot of conversation in advance of the bride- or mom-to-be opening gifts. After a few hours and some cocktails or a glass or two of wine, all parties go their separate ways. There are variations on that theme, of course, but traditional showers tend not to be renowned for their cool creativity.
Really, when was the last time a shower left guests wanting more? We think it’s time for a change.
One option we love is to turn the traditional shower on its head with a unique spin fit for a queen (or a duchess, but more on that later). That’s right. We’re bringing back high tea in a big way.
Why? To start, this elegant alternative allows partygoers to come together to celebrate a new addition or a new marriage in the same interactive way, but with an added touch of flare and whimsy to make the shower even more special and memorable. It’s also a way to add a more formal touch to a gathering without going over the top and incurring huge expenses. If timed right—meaning having tea at its traditional time in the mid-to-late afternoon—it can even be a perfect pick-me-up for everyone involved in the shower.
After all, that’s exactly what high tea was meant to do when the concept first captured the imaginations of British tea-lovers in the early 19th century. Legend has it that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, had a recurring afternoon predicament: she hit a wall. Not literally, of course, but Anna complained of ‘having that sinking feeling’ as either the energizing effect of her morning tea wore off, or her blood sugar levels waned prior to dinner. Because most people—even aristocrats—only ate two meals a day at the time, to combat her pre-meal fatigue, Anna supplemented with a cup or two of tea and a snack a few hours before her usual 8 o’clock dinner time.
The practice gained popularity when Anna invited her friends to get in on the mid-afternoon snacking fun. Delighted with finding a solution to their de-energized woes, her wealthy peers spread this new-found tradition across London’s most exclusive confines High tea soon became a widely accepted and popular new pastime. It was common to see drawing rooms filled with finely-adorned socialites sharing stories and discussing the day’s events. It also became de rigueur for those same elites to serve their nibbles on elaborate china sets. Many of us have likely seen similar—though likely far less expensive—versions in our grandparents’ dining room hutches as these sets became veritable dining-room mainstays across subsequent generations.
High tea eventually trickled down to the masses and the practice of sipping the Empire’s finest Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe, all while delighting in finger sandwiches and light pastries, became ubiquitous across the United Kingdom and its many colonies around the world. Interestingly, the name ‘high tea’ derives from differences between the ‘low tea’ observed by the aristocracy around four o’clock, and the later version taken by the middle- and lower-classes closer to the evening. As the story goes, the term ‘high tea’ was a nod to the height of the elevated dinner table on which it was served.
Nowadays, few Britons observe the practice in its full formal splendor, but it is still relatively common for luxury hotels and restaurants to offer high tea refreshment, mainly as a respite for well-heeled high-street shoppers. The dress code is also decidedly less formal and the general atmosphere less stuffy than those of England’s most fashionable 19th century sitting rooms.
Indeed, when done right, high tea can be a perfectly modern affair. Of course, we’re still partial to a dainty, traditional approach that incorporates the kind of elaborate serving dishes that would have been common when high tea was at its pre-war peak. Think everything from assorted cucumber, salmon cream cheese, smoked turkey and flavourful black forest ham finger sandwiches, to assorted scones and crumpets with sweet marmalade and rich clotted cream. And why not top it off with freshly-baked shortbreads and assorted éclairs and cupcakes? The Duchess of Bedford would be pleased!
The most appealing aspect of high tea is that you can make of it what you please.
Not into Victorian-era formality? In the past, we’ve added new flavours to traditional tea by adding prosciutto and grilled veggies and goat cheese to the finger-sandwich menu, along with savoury bites including sausage rolls, mini quiche tartlets and smoked trout blinis. English crumpets can easily be complemented with more modern mouth-watering desserts such as petit fours, macaroons and sweet and savory tarts.
In many cases we’ve worked with clients who want to add an even more personalized touch to their offerings with branded desserts. That’s right, it’s possible to add art or stylized messaging that promotes a specific theme or offers best wishes to the man-, woman-, couple- or baby-of-the-hour.
Others have wondered why it’s necessary to be so reserved during high tea.
One restaurant in Calgary, for example, throws a punk-rock high tea where they combine traditional elements with modern ingredients and music ranging from The Sex Pistols to the Clash. Why not take their lead and personalize high tea to suit you and your guests’ unique tastes and styles?
The options are limitless, but there’s no doubt that it’s high time to bring high tea back to the party-planning masses. We’ve even included two of our most popular Kiss the Cook High Tea menus below to tempt you to take a page from the past and restore this tradition to its rightful place—as the perfect theme for your next event.
Interested in hosting a high tea wedding or baby shower? Contact us now to learn about our delicious catered selections, including our customized high tea options, or choose from one of our classic menus:
TRADITIONAL HIGH TEA
- Assorted finger sandwiches including: cucumber cream cheese, salmon cream cheese, tuna salad, egg salad, smoked turkey, roast beef and black forest ham and cheese
- Assorted scones, tea biscuits and English crumpets including: marmalade, whipped butter, clotted cream
- Fresh baked cookies including: shortbreads, madeleines, chocolate almond, crescent, lemon
- Mini desserts including: assorted cupcakes, eclairs, bars, cakes, tarts
$25.00 per person + tax
QUEEN’S HIGH TEA
- Assorted gourmet finger sandwiches including: salmon cucumber cream cheese, crab salad, curried egg salad, smoked ham brie & apple, country pate, pimento cheese, roast beef horseradish, prosciutto fig, grilled vegetable goat cheese
- Savory bites including: sausage rolls, mini quiche tartlets, smoked trout blinis
- Assorted scones, tea biscuits, mini muffins and English crumpets including: marmalade, whipped butter, clotted cream
- Fresh baked cookies including: shortbreads, macaroons, madeleines, chocolate almond, crescent, lemon
- Petit fours & mini desserts including: assorted cupcakes, eclairs, bars, gourmet cakes, fruit tarts
$40.00 per person + tax