OPINION: For the pomp and ceremony, afternoon tea can't be beaten

A beautiful afternoon tea at Norwich Assembly House. Pictures Brittany Woodman

A beautiful afternoon tea at Norwich Assembly House. Pictures Brittany Woodman - Credit: Archant

Food writer Zena-Leech Calton celebrates the afternoon tea

Did you know the Queen has afternoon tea on a daily basis, and when she had corgis they would often get thrown a small piece of something sweet.

Now I can’t quite profess to be the queen of afternoon tea but I can say I am one of its biggest and loyalist long-term fans.

It all started in 90s London, where I worked as a chef and occasionally my mother would come up to stay taking me out somewhere lavish.

We tried afternoon tea at all the big hotels and I returned the favour to my daughter. Plus there was the times that my poor boyfriend, now hubby, had to be dragged to all the ones I hadn’t tried in London.

From my experience Fortnum & Mason was the biggest disappointment based on abrupt service and The Savoy was my favourite, especially their coronation chicken but the Dorchester make different coloured and flavoured breads, now that’s attention to detail.

I’ve written many blogs about afternoon tea including why afternoon tea costs more than a pot of tea, a sandwich, a scone and a piece of cake (I got in trouble for that one) along with what makes the best afternoon tea – in my opinion loose tea and a good choice of finger sandwiches including coronation chicken, a few pastries and large fruit scones (big not mini – they go too dry) and always jam before clotted cream (that’s the Devonshire way).

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I’m usually far too full by the time I get to cake, so anything as long as its fresh with one creamy number and a chocolate something or other.

It’s the pomp and ceremony I love the most, the time to relax, the everlasting tea pot and the endless carbs. I’ve catered an afternoon tea for around 60 and made all the sandwiches, scones and half the cakes that morning single handily but soon regretted it when I realised I had to do all the washing up.

My other tip is to set the table with two plates each – not fun when your catering for 60 but essential to have a clean plate when moving from savoury to sweet.

In Norwich, you can’t go wrong with the Assembly House Afternoon Tea, held in the historical Georgian ballroom with all the boxes ticked and good service, they also change their menu seasonally and have more to suit the less sweet-toothed, or as I call them, men.

Biddy’s is also a good shout with a more bohemian style in their quaint rustic wooden tea rooms both in Norwich and Aylsham.

Out in the county, my favourite is the Norfolk Mead plus Hestia Patisserie sometimes pops up at the Garden Kitchen at Hoveton Hall, with fine dining patisseries. I’ll carry on discovering new ones as I have my daughter hooked and it’s become a quarterly thing (at least).

Of course, you don’t always have to go out to enjoy an afternoon tea – invite friends to a pot luck version where you’ll all share the cooking.

I’ve organised our village jubilee and its afternoon tea based, depending on their surname they’ll bring either finger sarnies, pastries, scones or cakes – I can’t wait and hope no one brings egg mayo – my only food hate.

Plus make it yourself at home like we once did in lockdown – facetiming the grandparents and having a very fancy family affair.

Don’t forget you can get four finger sandwiches from a round, cut of the crusts – come on your not an animal! Slightly undercook your scones so they stay moist and don’t cheat like so many afternoon teas by buying frozen macarons. (they’ll never know – I do!)

Butter first, then jam then cream – and its S-gone not scown.

Check out Zena's food blog at www.lovenorwichfood.co.uk