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High Tea Menu At NUEVA

 

“The first cup moistens my lips and throat.

The second cup breaks my loneliness.

The third cup searches my barren entrails but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs.

The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration — all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores.

At the fifth cup I am purified.

The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals.

The seventh cup — Ah! but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves.

Where is Elysium? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.”

~ Lo T’ung

 

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One can go down in history, but for me it takes me down memory lane… to the many teas at the Taj’s café in my youth… to the grown up days of high tea at the Tea Centre… to a formal tea setting of damask and lace at my aunt’s place in Nairobi. It’s a culture that the British have left us with and it’s still the one that has a sense of elegance. ‘That’ cup of tea brings people together in a way that one cannot even imagine.

The sounds of the familiar clink of porcelain or bone china, as one walks into a room with tea cups on a tray, laden with food, a scene all together familiar in an Indian home. A routine ritual you might call it, and its even more fun when it’s the monsoon or when one has unexpected guests come over.

I sometimes dream a dream of the not so distant past. A world of youth when dreams were real and one could conquer the world. A world where “Nana” would sometimes take out the silver tea set, the leaves would be spooned into the tea pot and hot water poured over and allowed to simmer. The tea set of blue and lilac would be taken out on special occasions (read birthdays and anniversaries). The damask napkins and tiny cutlery was polished and wiped cleaner than clean.

Bring back the days when we were young! The memories come cascading down around the ‘cuppa’. The words “High tea” conjure up images of the Mad Hatter’s Party and Alice sitting at the table covered with silly foods.

It was my Nana, who imbibed in me the art of fine bone china, the reflection of amber through the cup & the appreciation of Wedgewood fine china. It’s the fine props that make for nostalgia, everything from the tiny teaspoons of burnished silver to the tiny silver sieve for the tea. Heavens! No we never heard of tea bags in those days and for serious tea drinkers, it’s sacrilegious to have tea out of tea bags. The memories of the tea shop, opening the large jars just to capture the heavenly aroma of an Orange Pekoe lingers fresh till now, perhaps just a little less than the leaves itself…IMG_2620

The collection of teapots and kettles and fine china around the house stands testament for the love of something special. So much so, that even gifting a teapot, along with a candle, is a sign of friendship in my home. It’s the generosity and love, enveloping the whole experience that makes it so special. It’s with little wonder that a drink can warm the cockles of one’s heart.

This tiny ritual has come from one of the most quintessential British customs, a tradition that began during the industrial age. This charming habit of sipping tea grew into a culture; for so loved was it that wars were even fought around tea like the Boston Tea Party. It became a bridge between meals and became a mini meal in itself. It was great for the wealthy classes who had abundant and was known as Royal High Tea; however, for the not so affluent, the culture just came to be known as “high tea”. For the uninitiated there’s a difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea. For High Tea would be had at the dining table and Afternoon tea would be served around 4:00 and served upon a low table. It was the Duchess Anna of Bedford who in the early 1900’s made the art of High Tea into a fashion statement.

The legendary tale of King Alfred not minding the cakes in the oven comes to mind when talking about tea. As he was on the run from the Vikings, taking refuge in the peasant woman’s home. She asks her cakes, tiny bread loaves really, to be looked after, but all in vain! Preoccupied with his worries, King Alfred lets the cakes burn only to be bluntly put to task by the woman! Such is the dearness of cakes to the High Tea lovers that it overpowers any royal presence who tries to tamper with it.

 

The Modern Twist At NUEVA
There is the popular notion that high tea is all about tiny cucumber sandwiches and scones and cakes. It goes beyond that, think of a Japanese theme with sushi and tempura or a Spanish fiesta with mouth watering arrays of tapas. The traditional high tea now includes mini salads and mini finger foods from the world over. Its just knowing about adding in the finer elements.

In India its about, mini samosas, mawa cakes and khari biscuits or cheese toast, Macaroni Cheese Nuggets, Jalapeno Cheese Bites and cocktail sausages. You could even experiment with these finger foods and come up with innovative recipes as you dish out dishes for a high tea.