Afternoon Tea is all about indulgence. Sipping fine tea from a bone china cup with delectable treats served on a tiered stand, simply adds to the charm.
It’s not as if, one cannot drink the same cup of tea at home, with some ordinary biscuits or a slice of cake. But there is something glitzy about sipping it in elegant surroundings replete with a piano playing in the background, divinely decadent tea selection and salmon or crust less cucumber finger sandwiches, lemon cake, scones with jam and clotted cream, laid out on a table covered with a crisp white table cloth.
While this may seem straight out of an Enid Blyton storybook, hotels and tea rooms across India, are making Afternoon Tea fashionable all over again, albeit sometimes with a twist, to suit the Indian palate
Tea has always had a lasting place in the British culture. But it was Anna, Duchess of Bedford, who created the tradition of afternoon tea in England, as she would get hungry in the long hours between breakfast and dinner. She began asking her servants to sneak in a pot of tea with some bread stuff, to ward away her hunger. Eventually, this became a daily ritual and she shared this custom with her friends. Afternoon tea soon became popular among the aristocratic class.
In India, while this custom of Afternoon Tea was somewhat retained and followed only in Eastern India, it is now being revived in other cities too. Although people are busy, Hotels and Tea rooms, are encouraging tea lovers to fuss around their evening cup and step out and take a tea break.
Afternoon tea offers guests an opportunity to reconnect over light-hearted conversations and brings respite from an otherwise hectic day at work.
Pure Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiri, may be the teas of aficionados, but there are Infused Teas, Earl Gray, English Breakfast, Lemon, Indian Masala, Herbal Teas, Chamomile et al, catering to all palates.
Cutting chai, meri apni cutting and kadak masala chai, are offerings that provide the quintessential Indian Chai experience. Right from Sulaimani chai to Mumbai Masala Chai and the classic Portuguese Cha to the Parsi Choi, infused with mint leaves and lemongrass, with fresh ginger and cardamom, everything is served.
Teas maybe the mainstay at an Afternoon Tea, but Hotels encourage guests to embark upon a culinary journey with delicacies, which are served alongside the selection of fine teas. That enhances the tea drinking experience, apart from satiating hunger during early evening.
While some hotels prefer to stick to the quintessential English teatime pastries and savouries, others want to do away with predictable fare and offer creative interpretations. Scones, pastries, Lemon meringue, blueberry cupcakes, sandwiches, apart from local classics like Vad pav, Chaan Jor garam and kanda bhajiya are on offer.
Five star hotels are not the only place, one can relish an elaborate afternoon tea. Tea rooms, both swanky and modest, have sprung up in several cities and are hosting popular Afternoon Teas.
With Afternoon Tea enjoying a resurgence in India, one no longer needs to wait for a visit to the Ritz or Savoy, to recreate the nostalgia of childhood story books.