If I walked up to you and asked, what is high tea? Would you answer, yet unakunywanga chai kila siku. This piece should not scare you away from boiling water and throwing in a handful of tea leaves in it and watch it boil to a froth..aaaa…aa.
Instead it investigates how a few of us take their take, how and where and at what time of the day. Tea is tea, regardless of how it is prepared. Have you ever gone to Kinangop and asked for a cup of tea? It is brought steaming hot in an enamel cup and you cannot sip it. But it is full of milk, thick milk and brown in colour like water in a pot-hole, and it tastes damn good!
Passion fruit clotted cream spread on a tea scone with a dollop of fresh ‘home-made’ jam is that bite that makes high tea.
Served on a tiered tray, finger food divided into the savoury and the sweet is presented at the centre of the table.
On the side, a tray of the signature passion clotted cream as well as a plain version of the same, jam and of course, a pot of tea completes the offerings of an English style high tea at Fairmont the Norfolk.
“It is sweetened cream with passion fruit and passion fruit syrup for extra flavour. The other option is sweetened cream with mascarpone,” explains Chef Eunice Kathambi.
The cream and jam are paired with the tea scones made the traditional English style with flour, butter, sugar, cream.
High tea lately has been an excuse to dress up, with themed parties, frocks, heels, hats and even black tie.
This, according to Barbara Loy, director of operation at Fairmont the Norfolk, is very different from the traditional high tea which was a smart casual affair for the ladies who would go have tea with the queen.
This affair traces its origins back to Queen Victoria who would host afternoon tea for socialisation.
“It was a different way of socialising especially for the ladies when they don’t want to go for dinner or a big lunch but they still want to enjoy,” says Barbara.
There is not much etiquette when it comes to eating the scones except for the fact that one should break them with their fingers and spread the cream and jam with the small knife provided.
“The savoury sandwiches and pastries are meant to be eaten using hands in small delicate bites,” explains Barbara.
Though originally a social affair for women, high tea has evolved into a ladies, family or even gentleman affair for meeting held over afternoon tea.
The savoury sandwiches include ham and cheese, grilled vegetable, smoked salmon and egg and tomato sandwich. They are cut to fit between the index finger and the thumb for easy pickup and dainty bites.
The sweet pastries include macaroons, strawberry tarts — a signature dessert for the Norfolk — mocha éclairs, cookies and Opera cake.
“Norfolk introduced high tea in 1904 in Kenya. The culture has grown and evolved to include a local version of the same which is served with Kenyan masala tea, mandazis, kaimatis and other local pastries,” explains Barbara.
The high tea comes in three alternatives, the Savoy style, Kenyan style and the classic Norfolk high tea. They range between Sh4,500 to Sh5,500 per couple depending on the option selected.