all the clotted cream
I can’t think of a single objectionable thing about afternoon tea. Just in that lagging portion of the afternoon, when you are suddenly craving sustenance, a panoply of options are set before you. Savory, sweet, caffeinated, even alcoholic. Whether on a tiered platter or set out in the array of a buffet, the perfectly bite-sized sandwiches, scones, and cakes allow you to indulge in such a variety of tastes and cravings that even the most select eaters will find something to satisfy. Top it off a glass of bubbly and you have just described my perfect afternoon.
I will allow that I’ve been a wee bit conditioned to love afternoon tea. A glorious – and seriously appreciated – holdover from the time when women’s colleges were more along the lines of finishing schools, my housemates and I reveled in our Friday afternoon sugar highs. To be fair, dinner on Friday nights was always suspiciously reminiscent of the week’s previous meals, so we knew that, come 4 PM, our best bet for filling up prior to the evening’s festivities was to take advantage of the platters of finger food set out in the living room. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some seating strategy – or even well-timed elbowing – involved.
It isn’t surprising, then, that my regular – and equally avid – tea companion is a good friend from college. If you ever walk into a dinning room populated with older, well-coifed ladies, daintily sipping down tea and nibbling on sandwiches don’t be surprised to see us in the corner gleefully chowing down on every delectable treat we can get our hands on.
This past weekend, in a mood to celebrate the season with some afternoon treats, she and I met up at the Mandarin Oriental for their tea. Sunlight pouring in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, with views out to the tidal basin, it was a delightful afternoon to relax in their Empress Lounge and catch up over warm beverages, finger sandwiches, and scones blanketed in lemon curd. And though tiered platters were sadly lacking, the selections displayed on the buffets summoned us up more than was probably healthy. But, really, who can deny themselves a taste of both the chocolate-covered strawberries and the caramel crème brûlée? Apparently not me.
And though I may be partial to the harpist at the Mayflower, our afternoon at the Mandarin was blissful and festively indulgent. Good company, late December sun, and a never-ending supply of clotted cream. Like I said – I can’t think of a single objectionable thing about afternoon tea.