I was invited to my very first Afternoon Tea by the lovely people at Twinings last week.
I can’t believe I’d gotten to the ripe old age of 29 without experiencing the magic of afternoon tea. Well believe me, this is the first of many afternoon teas to come.
The Criterion is a place of wonderfully old school glamour and opulence. The murals and ceiling decorations are mesmerising.
Once seated, we were given a leather-bound case of Twinings teas to choose from. There were the teas I was familiar with, your Traditional English, Signature Earl Grey, 2nd Flush Numalighur Assam etc, fantastic combinations such as Rooibos, Orange and Cinnamon and Gunpowder Green Tea and Mint, and teas I’d quite honestly never heard of including Russian Caravan, Ceylon White Silver Tips and Jin Shan Tien Hua Green Flowering.
Each tea has its place. Peppermint is refreshing and is said to aid digestion so is ideal for after a meal. Darjeeling is the traditional afternoon tea, as the gap between breakfast and dinner was just too long for 7th Duchess of Bedford and so she took to brewing a pot of tea at 4pm with some bread and butter. It has a delicate floral notes not unlike Muscadet.
The tea case is great and you are encouraged to pick up and smell or touch and feel the different teas. Which is fab especially when you can touch the Ceylon White Silver Tips which look exquisite. They are actual tea leaves, and the furry silver leaves are the buds of the tea-plant Camellia Sinensis, plucked before they have opened. It produces a light tea and so is great for people who are just exploring tea as it has a very delicate taste.
My favourite smelling infusion was the Rooibos, Orange and Cinnamon, which has a warming citrus aroma – will definitely be stocking up on this very soon.
And two teas I loved for their aroma and wonderful names were Russian Caravan and Gunpowder Green Tea and Mint. Russian Caravan is an exotic blend which takes it name from the Russian Camel Caravans which aided the Russian tea trade in the 18th Century, it has a smokey, strong scent and is said to produce a fortifying tea that will warm your cockles.
Gunpowder Green Tea and Mint (rather disappointly doesn’t contain gunpowder and instead) gets its name from the green tea leaves which are rolled into compact balls that look like gunpowder pellets and are then mixed with roughly chopped mint – I’ve since enjoyed this at home a few times now and am a big fan.
But the tea I chose for my afternoon tea had to be the Jin Shan Tian Hua Green Tea. After holding the flower in my hand I was intrigued as to how it would be transformed in the pot.
You see, this is a hand-made Chinese green tea, the leaves of which are sewn together to contain three Chyranthemum flowers which unfurl to release a fantastic flower when infused with the hot water. The tea it creates is a light golden colour with an aromatic, floral flavour.
Afternoon Tea at Criterion is a real treat, along with tea you are served an amazing array of bite size snacks presented on a cake stand, a trio of sandwiches, egg mayo, cucumber and smoked salmon, scones (I hadn’t had scones since school and they never tasted this good!) and a sumptuous selection of beautiful cakes and desserts.
The scones are served with raspberry and apple jam, real clotted cream and as well as strawberry jam. Nom nom.
The tea arrives and we are told how long to infuse our blends for by watching the Twining egg-timer, it has three different weighted sands to determine the optimum brewing time for a range of teas. The Darjeeling is served in a china pot, whereas my flowering tea comes in a glass tea-pot so we can watch the tea unfurl and flower right in front of our very eyes.
Twinings Afternoon Tea at The Criterion has a real sense of theatre and occasion, I’ve enjoyed it so much I’ll be back for more with my sister and mother-in-law in the New Year – it is a wonderfully indulgent girlie treat.
I was given a couple of teas to enjoy at home from the Twinings Deli range, the Orange Pekoe and first flush Darjeeling will have to wait until I’ve invested in a tea-pot but so far I’ve been enjoying the Gunpowder and Mint as well as the English breakfast, which come in gorgeous little tea pillows, not tea bags, pillows.
Twinings Deli Range is available at Waitrose or Twinings Online Tea Store.
The Twinings Afternoon Tea experience can be enjoyed at a range of hotels around the country including many Hilton’s (Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Dunblane, Edinburgh, Heathrow, Liverpool, London – Canary Wharf, Green Park Kensington, London Metropole, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading) and Radisson Hotels (Glasgow, Heathrow, London – Bloomsbury, Hampshire, Mayfair, Mountbatten).
Billesley Manor, Alcester – Scotland
Glamis Castle, Angus – Scotland
Royal Ascot, Ascot – Berks
Bath Spa Hotel, Bath
Woodland Park Hotel, Cobham – Surrey
Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh
Goodwood House Hotel, Goodwood – Chichester
Kilworth House Hotel, Kilworth – Leicestershire
Le Meridien, Piccadilly, London
The Randolph, Oxford
New Hall Hotel and Spa, Sutton Coldfield
Walton Hall, Warwickshire
St Christopher Wren’s House Hotel, Windsor
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock – Oxfordshire
I have a real feeling of déjà vu as I embark on a 14-day quarantine in the Caribbean. At least this time