Rose petals on white linen tablecloths, gold-rimmed fine china, pastries and scones on tiered plates, real silver and a live pianist – this is high tea at Boston Harbor Hotel. Each guest has their pick of a small pot of whatever tea they choose – Earl Grey, Vanilla Rooibos, English Breakfast, Constant Comment, whatever appeals to their taste at the time.
I discovered high tea two years ago while searching for a place to take my daughter for an early birthday before she left for Cairo, Egypt. “Where’s the best place to go for high tea?” I asked my friend Heather. Heather, with looks and wit like Lorelai Gilmore, knows places in Boston. Her knowledge runs the gamut from interesting clubs, to places where Old Man Drinks are served to patrons sitting in leather arm chairs. “Boston Harbor Hotel!” she replied. “I’ve searched the city and that is the best place – bright and elegant”. So Boston Harbor Hotel it was. With reservations made, Annie, Stefanie and I traipsed to the Harbor Hotel in our afternoon finery.
Tea has been a part of my existence since I graduated from mother’s milk. Whether it was English Tea or Pakistani Chai, tea soothed and calmed, brought perspective and healing, and turned bad days into good. High tea takes all the best in tea and adds the dimension of elegance. High tea brings out the Jane Austen in me. Jane Austen with her insight into human nature, crafting it with light humor and descriptions that portray people as neither morose nor depressing but entertaining and delightful. Annie, Stef and I sat in elegance, like mother and her daughters in a Jane Austen novel (minus the corsets, the plague, the short life span, and the prison of a class system).
High tea also take me back in time to another age, another era, another country, for a childhood delight of mine was Tea at Lintotts. Lintott’s was every little girls dream. Located in Murree with a wide verandah that spanned the front and side, it echoed of days gone by when colonialism was at it’s height and sipping afternoon tea on a verandah the only pastime of British army wives. I am not in any way approving of colonialism. Merely painting a picture for the reader so they can picture the calm, the china and most of all the, turbaned waiters attentive to every need. Afternoon tea at Lintott’s was a form of art. Tiny china pots filled with strong tea, three-tiered floral china plates with pastries – some chocolate, some vanilla, all creamy, warm milk in little pitchers and sugar bowls covered with netting edged with beads to weigh it down and guard against flies that would have been a wonderful microscopic study to validate the germ theory for any skeptics.
There would sit my mother and I, somehow I don’t think in all those years my brothers were ever part of this event. I don’t remember a lot of conversation, that was unnecessary. Just being there and being together was the delight. As I fast forward 40 years later my “Tea at Lintott’s” is now “High tea on the Harbor” and I am now my mother sitting with not one, but two daughters.
Whether it’s Tea at Lintott’s or High tea on the Harbor I am taken to a grown-up world of make-believe. For a short time all problems, worries, and frustrations are given to the hostess along with your coat, and you make your way to the table light and free. Your comfort and satisfaction is the only thing on your waiters mind and no matter what has gone on up till that time, you rise to the occasion and act the part that you are playing.
Life needs moments reserved for high tea, uninterrupted and fully at peace. And with the last sip of tea, and clink of the silver spoon on your china cup, you sigh, rise and head out with renewed strength to face the leftovers that will surely be part of the evenings supper.
“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.” ~ Sydney Smith, Lady Holland’s Memoir (vol. I, p. 383)
“Rather three days without food than a day without tea.” ~ Chinese proverb
Bloggers Note: Memories are wonderful things! I have no doubt that the elegance I speak of at Lintott’s has been, over time, glorified far beyond reality and I can’t wait to hear some of my readers comment based on their memories!