Cream Tea, High Tea and Afternoon Tea describe formal tea. Cream Tea is served in Devon and Cornwall, England and there is an ongoing feud whether you put the clotted cream or the strawberry jam on the scone first. High Tea means that tea is taken in the dining room and therefore served on high tables. Tea enjoyed in the garden is called Afternoon Tea and is on low tables.
All these details aside, the common thread is that dainty sandwiches and sweets are served with tea. In this modern era we would be as likely to serve green tea, herbal tea, chai or Moroccan mint tea. Sandwiches are now mini pitas or crostini and dainties might be fruit skewers or mini phyllo tarts.
Medjool Dates stuffed with chevre or feta is drop dead delicious. Garnish with orange zest and it is ready to go. These little pitas are made by quartering the mini pita bread and stuffing with a curried egg salad. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Mixed Nut Phyllo Tarts
This is much less work than making your own pastry and lighter than purchased unbaked pastry shells. Use any mix of unsalted nuts you have on hand. When working with phyllo pastry, I brush some melted butter on the countertop so the first sheet doesn’t move around.
1 c. maple syrup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter, cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. coarsely chopped mixed unsalted nuts
1 pkg. phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 c. melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine maple syrup, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Set aside.
Lay out 1 sheet of phyllo pastry on your countertop and brush with melted butter. Set another sheet over the first and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have 5 sheets of phyllo layered. Cut into 3 inch squares.
Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with oil. Press phyllo squares carefully into the pan. Fill with maple nut filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to12 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and shells are golden. Cool in the pan for a minute or two then remove and cool on rack. Makes about 48 tarts.
3 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked open with the back of a spoon
6 whole cloves
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 in. slice of fresh ginger
5 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. loose black tea leaves
4 c. water
1/2 c. half and half cream
1 to 2 tbsp. light brown sugar, cane sugar or honey, according to taste
Place spices and herbs in a medium size saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes.
Add tea leaves and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on medium for 5 minutes. Add cream and sugar. Stir for about a minute, over low heat, until steaming. Strain and pour into a teapot or cups. This can be made ahead and reheated. It will keep several days in the refrigerator. Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Moroccan Mint Tea
1 tbsp. loose Chinese gunpowder green tea
5 c. boiling water
3 to 4 tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1 large bunch fresh mint
Put tea in teapot and pour in 1 c. boiling water, then swirl gently to warm pot and rinse tea. Strain out and discard water, reserving tea leaves in pot.
Add remaining 4 cups boiling water to tea and let steep 2 minutes. Stir in sugar to taste and mint sprigs and steep 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve in small heatproof glasses.