Australia’s leading luxury lifestyle designer, artist and entrepreneur Cristina Re, of High Tea in Style by Cristina Re, shares the real celebration of telling a story over a cup of tea and its expression of friendship, happiness and liberation.
In the mid 1800s, it is believed that the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting, first began the social ritual of afternoon tea. A cup of tea served with a light refreshment of bread and butter and cake sustained her and saved her from feeling hungry between lunch and dinner. Because this tea was taken at a dining table or high table rather than a coffee or low tea table, it began to be called “high” tea.
By the late 1800s, afternoon tea had become a fashionable form of entertaining in English country house life and was often attended by both men and women. Ladies dressed especially for the occasion where the finest of fashionable china and silverware were presented as a mark of success and stature. In recent years “high tea” has become a term used to describe an elaborate afternoon tea, much like the traditional English afternoon tea. It is now a rapidly growing trend in Australia and all over the world.
Our female love affair with all things sweet and delicious is timeless. Two special items on my high tea menu have become absolute essentials — yet neither of them are particularly traditional –cupcakes and macaroons.
“When Sex in the City featured Carrie Bradshaw eating a delicious cupcake from Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan, a new wave of appreciation for the miniature morsels with delicate frosted designs began. And in 2006, director Sofia Coppola brought the macaroon to life in the stunningly picturesque film Marie Antoinette.”
Although high tea was once considered to be a serious and stuffy affair in old colonial hotels, it is now considered to be a fun and symbolic ritual bringing people together to celebrate life and love. Happiness is infectious. The sound of women laughing and enjoying high tea is truly inspiring. Soul-time doesn’t have to be deep meditation or a yoga retreat; it can be experienced by pampering ourselves just for the sake of it. It’s a chance to turn off our busy minds and slow down. As life races past us — and many of us are too entrenched in social media to share life’s experiences — we can miss opportunities to connect face to face on a personal level.
Everyone is willing to tell a story over a cup of tea. And from its humble beginnings, tea has over 5000 years of stories behind it. Tea will calm you, comfort you, energise and inspire you.
“There is nothing more powerful than a room full of women who have come together with the intention of relaxation, discussion and celebration over a cup of tea.”
High tea has really come into the twenty-first century with style, and in 2016, high tea means lots of glistening gold! High tea at Grand Hyatt Melbourne means eating off 24-carat-gold-plated teaware in all manner of beautiful designs — such as ‘Cristina Re Signature Collection’, featuring exquisite designs and patterns — and indulging in gold-foiled treats designed by master pastry chefs. The ceremony is also a time to taste the seasonal flavours of the season.
I think it’s important to also talk about the greater power of high tea. High tea is an expression of liberation, femininity and friendship. High tea is an escape from our everyday lives, but also from the guilt we place on ourselves about what we eat and how much money we spend. I can think of no other event in this day and age that allows us to dress up and be ladylike, go out in the afternoon avoiding bars and clubs — and for those that are a little more mature, there’s the added bonus of being home by six-o-clock!
And finally, high tea is about the art of fashion, something that most women love to celebrate everyday. High tea should be an excuse for glorious couture and an opportunity to express one’s personal style whether it be intricate, embellished or theatrical. There are just not enough reasons in everyday life to get dressed up during the day, and have a chance to wear a pair of gloves and a pretty hat. High tea offers you a chance to experience your very own catwalk moment!
Cristina Res’ High Tea Etiquette
At all high tea events, simple etiquette applies so here are a few tips from the etiquette manual to help you enjoy your high tea in style!
1. Firstly, always pick up your cup and saucer together — holding the saucer in one hand and cup in the other.
2. Contrary to popular belief, the ring and little finger should not be extended, but should rest by curving gently back toward your wrist.
3. After stirring, place your spoon quietly on the saucer, behind the cup, on the right hand side under the handle.
4. Never dip a scone in jam or cream. Pretend it is a dinner roll. Break off bite size pieces and add the jam or cream on your own plate. Scones are not to be eaten with a fork or cut with a knife.
5. Never sip your tea from the spoon or place your finger in your mouth to taste your dessert.
6. Take small bites. Never stuff the whole sandwich or dessert in your mouth even if appears small enough or terribly delicious and irresistible!
High Tea in Style by Cristina Re is held from 12:30pm – 2:30pm Saturday , 3:30pm – 5:30pm every Saturday & Sunday at Collins Kitchen, Grand Hyatt Melbourne’s signature restaurant.