This Christmas — and really the whole year — was especially rich in items to improve my afternoon tea breaks.
First of all, I can hear you asking: Can anything really improve the flavor of tea? And of course the answer is no. Not because tea is great — just the opposite. Tea is the muddy sludge you get when you boil dead leaves in water. At best, all you can do is disguise the flavor with a ton of milk and sugar and lemon and other things that actually taste good.
However! Tea has a fantastic smell. Also, hot drinks are extremely soothing at this time of year. And an afternoon tea break is a great excuse to snack. So I drink a lot of tea. Here are my picks for the best ways to enjoy your afternoon tea breaks:
1. Fancy Tea
Martina, who claims to actually like the flavor of tea and can even brew a pot that’s reasonably pleasant to the tongue, turned me on to the black teas from Fortnum & Mason in London. No one should pay this much for a jar of leaves, but they smell so amazing that they’re kind of almost worth the price. Plus, you can keep the awesome tins, like this one:
I also really love the fruit-infused teas, which come with actual bits of dried fruit in them. (Tea: it’s not just for leaves anymore!) I strongly advise buying Fortnum & Mason teas if you want to smell something nice and feel rich at the same time.
For the rest of you, I noticed the last time I was at Urban Ore that they had some decorative tea tins for sale in their crockery section for like fifty cents apiece, so that’s an option. And for those of you who don’t want to order a fancy tin from another continent but who ALSO don’t want to bring something into your kitchen that you bought at a store filled with weird (and awesome) trash, Trader Joe’s has some really nice tea tins available these days.
I know the choice of tea should not be primarily about the container, but I can’t help it. I have a weird love of tins. And since I kind of hate flavored popcorn, I can only indulge my tin-love through tea.
2. Proper accessories
Michele got me this necklace for Christmas:
It is so insanely cute and delicious looking that I have to snack every time I look at it. So basically I can ONLY wear it for afternoon tea. There are similarly awesome items available on the designer’s website, in case you are in the habit of taking your fashion tips from me. And why wouldn’t you be, when I wear stuff like this?
3. A Light Read
I have spoken of my love for Coralie Bickford-Smith many a time, but anyone who regularly socializes with me knows that I have no problem repeating myself. For Christmas this year my folks bought me the Coralie Bickford-Smith edition of Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense: The Collected Poems of Lewis Carroll:
I’ve long wanted to own a copy of, for example, “The Hunting of the Snark” (which I’ve never even read, can you believe it?), but I was waiting for the right edition to come along. This is definitely it. You need something great but also light to read during afternoon tea, and this is perfect.
And I know some people choose to socialize during afternoon tea but come on, Richie Rich, this ain’t Downton Abbey. In my home we drink our tea in silence, because our husband is at work and we worry that the neighbors will hear us through the walls if we start talking to lamps and stuff.
4. The Perfect Tea Snack
For Christmas this year, Gene and I agreed to only get each other food-based stocking stuffers as gifts. Among other things, he gave me a bag of these cookies, which are smaller versions of the cookies he and Clark fell in love with during their time in Amsterdam:
They look like cardboard but they taste like the magic of childhood. Like, you know when you’re reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid and you have no idea what Turkish Delight is, but it sounds like the most amazing food ever? And then as an adult you find out what it is and you have to waste a day of your life feeling bad for English children because they’re obviously raised without access to proper sweets and will basically sell their souls to the White Witch for what Wikipedia calls “a gel of starch and sugar”? Well, these cookies are what Turkish Delight should taste like, according to your childish dreams.
And Clark, if you’re reading this, you should know two things. One: Gene bought these at Cost Plus World Market. And two: you should definitely buy yourself some right away. Maybe you are thinking “I’ll just wait until we visit the kids next month; they’ll probably have one or two left to share with us.” Ha ha! It’s so cute that you think that. No, these will be gone by the end of this post.
5. Vitamin C
Who was the marketing genius who came up with Cuties? Give that dude a medal.
I am no great fan of oranges, but when you put a bunch of them in a cunning net bag and slap some version of the word CUTE on them in giant letters, I will eat them by the truckload. This would work for just about any food, I think. I would eat a vat of kale if someone tied a ribbon around it and wrote ADORBS on it. I would eat an ocean’s worth of tuna if the can claimed it to be THE PUPPY OF THE SEA. (Or, wait, would I? That might be going too far.)
Anyway, a couple of cuties helps ward off sickness and helps disguise the inherently gross flavor of tea. So I recommend it.
And that is all you need to have a great afternoon tea break, according to me. I’m no Englishman but I am almost invariably right about things, so I think you can consider me an expert. Enjoy!