Afternoon tea is a custom originated in the 1800s amongst the wealthy classes in England and ever since it constitutes a daily ritual for the majority of British. It is a great occasion to gather with friends and socialize while enjoying a cup of tea and having a light meal, usually including gourmet sandwiches, sweets and meats. Choosing the right type of tea for afternoon tea makes all the difference since not all teas pair well with afternoon tea fare.
I have a selection of teas and herbal infusions to suggest, that will assure your afternoon tea party is a wonderfully flavorful and aromatic experience every time.
- Earl Grey
Earl Grey is one of the most famous teas in the world. The term “Earl Grey” applied traditionally to black teas only but it can also refer to other types of tea. Tea leaves are combined with essential oil extracted from bergamot -a citrus fruit- and that is how it gets its distinctive citrus flavor and aroma. Earl Grey is naturally sweet The natural sweetness of Earl Grey makes it ideal to accompany with afternoon tea treats such as cookies, scones or madeleines.
- Assam Black Tea
Assam black tea is a type of black produced in the mountainous region of Assam, India after which it takes its name. This is a full-bodied tea, known for its brisk, malty flavor and bright color. It can often be astringent with a fruity finish. Assam is enjoyed usually with sugar and milk and/or with desserts or finger sandwiches.
- Ceylon Black Tea
Ceylon tea is generally any type of tea -including black, green, white- growing in Sri Lanka, which was known as Ceylon prior to independence. Ceylon black teas are the most famous among them all and it is a favorite choice for afternoon tea. They can be enjoyed with all kinds of afternoon tea accompaniments! Popular Ceylon teas include:
- Orange Pekoe: Is a grade of tea made in Sri Lanka and India. It is a basic, medium-grade black tea consisting of whole tea leaves of a specific size. It does not actually taste like orange.
- Nuwara Eliya: This tea yields are bright coppery color liquid with a refreshing light and floral taste.
- Uva: This black tea comes from the Uva district of Sri Lanka. It has a pungent flowery character and when brewed it is coppery and bright in color and sweet, woodsy flavor.
- Dimbulla: This black tea is from the Dimbula district of Sri Lanka. It has a pungent flowery character and when brewed it is coppery and bright in color.
- Darjeeling Black Tea
Darjeeling tea is tea from the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. It can be found in black, green, oolong and white variety. Darjeeling black tea is usually used for afternoon tea along with a range of treats. It offers a light-colored, thin-bodied brew with a fruity and floral aroma. Its flavor tends to be slightly tannic with a musky spiciness.There is First Flush (harvested in mid-March) and Second Flush Darjeeling (harvested in June). The first has a very light color, light aroma and mild astringency while the second offers a full-bodied and stronger flavored infusion.
- Lapsang Souchong
Lapsang Souchong is a black tea produced mainly in the Fujian region of China. It has a distinctive smoky flavor since the leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over a fire of pinewoods. It goes beautifully with certain tea sandwiches such as cucumber, salmon or chicken sandwiches or fruit cakes.
- Russian Caravan
Another favorite smoked tea, russian caravan, is a blend of lapsang souchong, keemun and oolong teas. This is a very aromatic, full-bodied tea, sweet and with a smoky, malty taste. This was the traditional tea in Russia which was imported from China via camel caravan. Just like Lapsang Souchong, russian caravan can be enjoyed with heavier afternoon tea foods.
- Gunpowder Green Tea
Even though black teas are the most common types consumed during afternoon tea, gunpowder green tea is a stronger tea, with robust flavor and a hint of smokiness that can be paired very well with afternoon tea sandwiches and savory pastries as well as with minty treats. The preparation method for this tea however differs from that of black teas since it requires shorter brewing time and water at cooler temperature.
- Mint Tea
Mint tea a great herbal infusion to enjoy at afternoon tea. It is naturally caffeine free and refreshing and can be enjoyed slightly sweetened and with a variety of dishes. I suggest trying mint teas with dark chocolate, pound cakes, scones with fruit jams, fruit cakes and light finger sandwiches.
- Black Dragon Pearls Tea
Black Dragon Pearls is a rare type of black tea coming from the Yunnan province. It is hand rolled using the highest quality leaves and buds into a pearl-like shape. Black Dragon Pearls tea has a rich, naturally sweet and smooth flavor with subtle chocolate and cocoa notes unveiling as each pearl unfurls. This tea’s clean, earthy flavor should be enjoyed preferably without milk or sugar and you can savor it with dark chocolate or light finger sandwiches.
- Lavender blends
Lavender is a popular herb used for afternoon tea either on its own or in various blends. A famous lavender blend is lavender Earl Grey but it is also found in many other herbal blends including chamomile, peppermint and spearmint. The sweetness and pleasant, relaxing fragrance of lavender can compliment excellently simple and uncomplicated sweets such as shortbread cookies and scones.
What is your favorite tea for afternoon tea and what kind of foods do you like to pair it with?