"Scones, The Jefferson" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr
It’s time for another item from the DC Omnivore 100 list of the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.
Cream tea, high tea, afternoon tea… what’s it all about? And why does the Omnivore 100 list have “cream tea” instead of one of the other terms? I just remembered seeing little signs for “cream tea” while wandering around cute villages in the Cotswolds, but have never seen it used around here. Then there’s the constant “high tea vs. afternoon tea” debates that erupt on food forums, everytime someone asks where to get “a proper high tea” in this town.
As luck would have it, last night at the Women’s Chef & Restaurateurs Awards gala, I had the pleasure of meeting an actual tea sommelier! Cynthia Gold explained the difference between these three terms, with some history to boot. Like so much food lore, the actual reasons were not at all what I expected.
It all comes down to table heights.
"Afternoon Tea" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr
I’ve done my fair share of tea in this town. Afternoon tea has been a serious obsession of mine since I had the luck of spending several summers in England during college, basically living on tea as a poor student. It’s also a favorite way of my girlfriends to get together. Over the years in Washington I’ve had afternoon tea everywhere – Henley Park Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel (sadly no longer serving), The Jefferson Hotel, etc. Noticing a trend? Afternoon tea here is mainly a hotel thing, with Teaism being the notable exception (or Ching Ching Cha if you want an Asian tea experience).
With my absolute favorite afternoon tea spot being closed for renovations (that would be the venerable Jefferson, where the scones came out warm and fragrant at the perfect time), I thought I would try The Mayflower Hotel. They serve afternoon tea daily from 3pm-5pm in Cafe Promenade, a soaring orchid and mirror filled room.
There are many ways to enjoy teatime, and if your tastes run to the gleaming china and sparkling silver variety, The Mayflower delivers on the upscale. If you require attentive and charming service, you’ll definitely find it here. The tea selection itself is quite nice, all served loose in individual pots with lovely silver strainers on the side. The usual suspects are featured such as Earl Grey, darjeeling, and some great greens like sencha or oolong. They even have an enchanting wild blackberry tea that’s a black caffeinated blend, as opposed to the usual herbal tisane. The aroma drove me into a dreamy state, longing for spring…
So where does The Mayflower fall short? Well, frankly, the goodies. Continue reading