Afternoon Tea with the Experts…

Afternoon Tea has long been a British tradition, dating back to the 1840’s and shows no sign of slowing down. But how do we know that we are making the most of our Afternoon Tea? Is there a perfect blend to match with the perfect scone? We went straight to the experts at Birchall Tea, proud suppliers of tea to Elite Hotels, to help us discover the perfect pairings and find out the secret to making the most of your Afternoon Tea.

Firstly, could you explain a bit about Birchall Tea?
Birchall Tea is a fifth-generation independent tea company based in London. Our roots in the trade date back over 140 years to when Captain Birchall Graham — the first active member of our family in the tea trade — cultivated tea in Darjeeling. We remain family run to this day and are thrilled to supply tea across the UK and beyond.

Why do you think tea is the perfect drink to accompany Afternoon Tea?
Tea has been the integral part of Afternoon Tea in Britain since the 1800’s — as Jane Austen once wrote, “But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea”! Tea was originally introduced to the Royal Courts and the habit was adopted by the aristocracy. It’s the perfect drink because of this longstanding tradition, as well as the intricate flavours of each type of tea that perfectly accompany the food served. We have been proud to work with Elite hotels since 2016.

Which flavours would you recommend to complement each tier of a traditional Afternoon Tea?
Tier 1 Sandwiches Strong flavours would suit a traditional sandwich selection. Our black teas — Great Rift Breakfast Blend or our Darjeeling — would accompany these very well indeed.
Tier 2 Freshly baked warm scones Here I would recommend pairing fruity scones with fruity/floral notes. For example, the bergamot in our Virunga Earl Grey would be a perfect fit here. Other options would be a Red Berry & Flower, a Green Tea & Peach or a Jasmine Tea Pearl.
Tier 3 Patisserie Eclairs, tarts and general sweet treats — With sweet treats, I would recommend pairing light liquoring teas — for example, our Virunga Afternoon Tea and our classic Green Tea.

What in your opinion makes the perfect cup of tea?
With over 45 Gold Stars won across our range at the Great Taste Awards, you’re asking the right people! For the tea itself, it’s the provenance, freshness and the flavour. For example, our expert tea tasters source our English Breakfast blend by tasting up to 3000 East African teas each week to ensure the very best flavour. We always recommend our teas to be served in loose leaf format — something that Elite Hotels do expertly. The perfect cup of tea is also aided by the setting and the people/lack of people around you!

Let us in on the secret, how long should we be leaving our cup of tea to brew to get the perfect cup?
It completely depends on the type of tea/herbal infusion. For our Black Teas, we recommend just a couple of minutes, and our herbal infusions can be brewed for as long as you like — the longer you leave it, the more strength and flavour there will be.

What do Birchall’s find is the most popular flavour of tea?
At home, by far and away the most popular tea is the classic, English Breakfast tea. However, when taking Afternoon Tea, we find that customers increasingly prefer to try something a little different than what they are used to so for example, an Earl Grey, a Darjeeling or a Green Tea.

Finally, are there any tea trends that you have noticed?
Any teas you see being big news in the upcoming year? In recent years we have seen a rise in popularity of healthy teas and herbal infusions. Green Teas are a fantastic idea if you’re looking for a tea with antioxidants. We offer a lovely Green Tea & Peach if you’re not so keen on a pure green tea taste. We’ve also seen a rise in naturally caffeine-free herbal infusions. Products such as Redbush (or Rooibos) are caffeine-free but also packed with antioxidants.

Want to give the experts suggestions a try? Join us for a traditional Afternoon Tea available at all hotels and keep an eye out for our exclusive themed Afternoon Tea throughout the year.