One Lump Or Two?: Our Guide To Tea Time In Bath
Back in the 1800’s, British Prime Minister William Gladstone said, “If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you.” In a country that is famous for drinking their way through 165 million cups of tea each day, it comes as no surprise that people heed to these words as strongly today as they did then…for in an English state of mind, tea really does make everything better.
This pure adoration of tea instantly peaked my interest. A lover of all things dainty (not to mention caffeinated), I was intrigued with a country that still celebrates afternoons of tea and other such sweet delights. When we New Yorkers “meet for tea”, this can be more appropriately translated to “let’s grab a hot beverage from Starbucks and chug as we’re speed-walking to our next destination”.
Needless to say, when we showed up for traditional English afternoon tea at The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, I was pleased as punch to be trading in the usual paper cups for polished silver, and walk-and-talks for a true, focused conversation. (How often does that ever happen in New York?!) We quickly found out that the art of tea time isn’t just about noshing, but rather celebrating the arts of presentation, conversation, and timeless tradition.
Afternoon tea is traditionally served daily between 3 to 5pm. The menu offered a vast selection of teas, but we stayed strictly traditional and went with the tried and true English Breakfast Tea. When in England, eh?
Smack in the middle between lunch and dinner, tea time is the perfect way to get your afternoon nosh on. A three-tier serving plate was brought out, featuring a gorgeous display of lemon meringue cupcakes on the top, dark chocolate and raspberry filled cakes in the middle, and crustless little cucumber sandwich delights on the bottom. Let’s not forget my favorite: the basket of fresh-from-the-oven scones and buns, the perfect complement to the delectable English masterpiece known as clotted cream. In true American style, we finished every last morsel, from savory to sweet. Not exactly dainty of us, but a compliment to the chef, nonetheless.
Now for the tea time etiquette, or, as the French say, la tenue. Some important tips that I picked up (after royally screwing them up) are:
-Milk gets stirred in after the tea is poured. Coffee drinkers love the ritual of first milk, then coffee, and last sugar that mixes it all together…but it’s just not done like that at tea time. Make a note, java lovers!
-The silver tea strainer is the new tea bag: place it over your cup before you pour. (You guessed it, I totally skipped this step round one, ending up with lovely little leaves floating about in my cup. Silly American.)
-Avoid denim like the plague. After a full day of sightseeing, we went straight to tea rather than taking time to go back to the hotel to doll up. Save yourself the “omg, I feel so underdressed” moment and slip a skirt, silk scarf, and your favorite tube of lipstick into your bag. The Brits invented the saying “dress to impress”, and tea time is certainly no time to slack.
If You Go
While there are certainly no shortage of places to sit for a proper afternoon tea in Bath, we were epically impressed with The Royal Crescent Hotel. From the impeccable white glove service, to the lush royal garden, to the general feeling of grandeur you get from the second you walk through the doors, you honestly do feel like you are experiencing afternoon tea as the elite society members did back in the 1800’s. If you are hosting a special occasion (bridal party, baby shower, Mother’s Day luncheon, or any other memorable gathering), be sure to check out www.VenueFinder.com.
This was truly one of our best memories from our visit to Bath, and we whole-heartedly agree with Prime Minister Gladstone: a well-done afternoon tea can cure just about any woe. Splurge on the experience, because it will quickly become one of your fondest travel memories.
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen
A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at Bath Boutique Stays!