Sharing history over high tea
“Now make sure that the tea isn’t anemic,” said Graeme as she plated fresh cookies from the bakery down the street. She looked elegant in a cool turquoise colour that matched the rest of her outfit beautifully. “It needs to steep for at least 5 minutes”, she explained.
It was about a year ago when I realized the importance of high tea. My mom’s friend Graeme had recently introduced me to the concept of pausing the chaos of a day to have high tea in the afternoon.
My mother sat up in her hospital bed in the living room of her apartment. I hung a floral scarf around my mom’s neck to enhance the beauty of the moment. She always lit up when Graeme came over…perhaps it was because of the tea and treats…or perhaps it was because this time offered an opportunity to become human again.
The tea would steep as chatter and jokes filled the room. The deep red colour seeped from within the tea bags and swirled throughout the transparent glass tea pot. In these moments, our reality shifted from symptom management and medication discussions to a time of colourful anecdotes, flavourful jokes and the most precious human commodity: storytelling.
High tea became a point of stillness during the most terrifying year of my life. During my mother’s final days, I began to practice the art of tea time as a comforting ritual. The continuous cultivation of this art has been guided by Graeme, who is now my 75 year old mentor. This intergenerational practice enriches my life.
At tea time, I light a candle for my mom in a mini tea cup that I used as a child. The candle glows on the mantle beneath a picture of her.
In addition to passing on the art of tea time, Graeme shares stories of local history that traces a line through events that have created the present day that we currently share. Our 45 year age difference provides a richness to our conversation that seems to be deficient in many aspects of everyday life.
High Tea How To
Brought to you by Graeme Webster
The Timing of High Tea:
Proper High Tea is traditionally served at 4pm and includes savoury as well as sweet foods. Supper follows tea at 8pm. Therefore, tea should be a light snack.
High Tea can also be useful as a supper for small children who are in bed before the adults sit down to supper.
How to Properly Brew Tea:
Loose tea is preferred. Tea bags are a big faux-pas.
1. Heat the pot with boiling water first, and then add the tea (one teaspoon per person and one for the pot), and pour fresh, boiling water into the pot.
2. Let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes. Do not stir.
3. Pour into cups
4. Add milk (Do not put the milk in before the tea)
5. Enjoy the food, friends, ambience and a refreshing “cuppa”!
High Tea foods - Combine Savoury and Sweet:
Savoury - Cucumber sandwiches, sardines, fish paste, marmite and veggie sticks.
Sweet - Scones with jam (a traditional Cornish Cream Tea is popular: scones, clotted cream and jam). Cakes of every description are welcome. However, sponge cake is preferred (vanilla with lemon filling is quite popular). Cookies are often referred to as biscuits and they are a very important component.