How can we celebrate the love this year?
For me, love and tea go hand in hand.
I grew up with afternoon tea time traditions with my mom. Most kids came home to snack time, but my mom made sure I knew how to make a proper cup of tea from an early age. Later in life, I converted my husband to become a tea lover as well. His tea-loving Irish parents are thrilled that he’s finally learned “The Way.”
The topic of tea even made an appearance in the form of friendly matrimonial advice given to me at my bridal shower. My mom’s friend pulled me aside and said, “No matter what happens in your husband’s day, you have the power to make it a great night. When he comes home, read his mood — whether it be cheery or stressed, elated or withdrawn — and simply say, ‘Can I make you a cup of tea?’” She must’ve whispered the same advice into his ear at some point, because it’s what we both say to one another to bring that sense of calm.
As you can then imagine, tea is often a well-planned pivotal pit stop when I’m on the road…even in the strangest of places. Believe it or not, I once tried ordering the perfect cup at a German beer hall. That didn’t go so well. Not surprisingly, I’ve had the best tea experiences in London. My happy place is The Wolseley, and my other favorite is the Brown’s Hotel.
Tea even influenced by pregnancy announcement to my husband. When I was in Prague, I purchased a tiny teacup, hoping to present it one day as a “Honey, we’re pregnant” gift. Two years later I set the table for 3 and he figured it out.
And now tea has become intertwined in our Valentine’s Day tradition. My husband and I scout out a hotel in NYC that serves afternoon tea — fully equipped with scones, sandwiches and desserts — and then we make a day of it, just the two of us. In recent years, we’ve found a few local favorites like the tea room at Bergdorf Goodman overlooking Central Park, and The Baccarat Hotel.
This year, I’ll be using my travel tea memories as inspiration to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my family. There’ll be tea sandwiches all over my kitchen, and who knows…my daughter may FINALLY eat egg salad if presented in cute triangle form. My COVID plan is to bring the tea house to my house.
So go put your kettle on boil and read on.
Start with savory:
These easy and quick sandwich recipes will bring that afternoon tea house feel right to your kitchen. The fillings can be made the day before, but buy the bread fresh. Since tea sandwiches are small, it’s important to finely chop the ingredients and balance the flavors.
Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
Note: I made some alterations to the original recipe and also tripled the egg salad quantity to have leftovers. Original recipe found at Oh, How Civilized.
- Fresh sliced potato bread, crusts removed.
- 6 eggs
- 2 T. mayonnaise (original recipe calls for more if recipe tripled).
- 1.5 t. dijon mustard (original recipe calls for more if recipe tripled).
- pinch of salt
- 2 t. chopped chives
- parsley for garnish
- Place the eggs and water into a saucepan or pot. Water should be an inch above the eggs. On high heat, bring water to a full boil then turn off the heat. With the pot covered, let it sit for 12 minutes.
- Take eggs out one at a time, and run under cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel the eggs.
- Give the eggs a good chop. Not too fine that they’ll turn into mush when you mix it with mayo and not too rough that they’ll look too messy.
- Combine chopped eggs, mustard, mayo, and salt in the bowl. Start with the above quantities of mayo and dijon mustard, taste, and add more if needed. Sprinkle chives in too.
- Slice the bread. Decide which shape you’d like to cut your sandwich into. It’ll be easier to do this now, before the filling is added. You can use cookie cutter or make a simple rectangle or triangle.
- Assemble the tea sandwiches. From the bottom up: bread, a tablespoon of egg salad, sprig of parsley, and bread.
Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
Note: I made some alterations to the original recipe and also doubled the filling to have leftovers. Original recipe found at Oh, How Civilized.
- Fresh sliced, white bread, crusts removed.
- 1/2 English cucumber
- 2 T. salted butter, softened
- 4 t. chopped chives
- whipped cream cheese
- Slice the cucumber. Use a mandolin slicer to cut into the thinnest setting (1/16). Slice a few at 1/8 for garnish on top.
- Blot the cucumber slices with paper towel.
- Make chive butter by mixing chopped chives and salted butter
- Slice the bread. Decide which shape you’d like to cut your sandwich into. It’ll be easier to do this now, before the filling is added. You can use a cookie cutter, or make a simple rectangle or triangle.
- Assemble tea sandwiches. The order from bottom up: bread, chive butter, cucumber, bread with some cream cheese spread on it.
Smoked Salmon Open-Faced Sandwich
Note: I made some alterations to the original recipe found at Oh, How Civilized.
- Pumpernickel bread
- 2 oz. smoked salmon, pre sliced
- 2 T. cream cheese
- 2 T. finely chopped red onion
- 2 T. capers, drained
- chives for garnish
- Prepare the bread. Original recipe calls for mini bagels, split and lightly toasted. I purchased pre-sliced mini pumpernickel bread, because I love that flavor combo with smoked salmon.
- Spread cream cheese on slice of bread.
- Divide toppings (salmon, red onion, capers, chives) between each slice of bread. Start with a layer of sliced smoked salmon on top of the cream cheese, followed by chopped red onions, capers and chives.
End with sweet:
My mom makes the best scones, so I didn’t have to search far for this favorite recipe. Actually, in full disclosure, she learned the recipe from her English friend during the blizzard of ’96, when we were all snowed in together for days! Her friend made us authentic scones every morning, which were the perfect winter treat. They are easy and quick to make.
- 2 c. flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1 stick butter (very cold- cut into tiny pieces)
- 1/2 c. sugar (I use almost 1/2 c, but 1/4 c. is too little).
- raisins or dried fruit
- 1/2 c. half and half
- Preheat oven to 425. Grease mini scone pan.
- In Kitchen Aid or mixer, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter to bowl and mix.
- Add sugar and mix. Add raisins and dried fruit (as much as you’d like).
- Add half/half. Add 1/4c. at a time. Only mix enough for all to combine. Do not overmix.
- Drop by the spoon into mini scone pan. Don’t be neat about it!
- Bake at 425, for 12-16 minutes, depending on your oven. You want the top to be a little golden. Makes about 12 mini scones.
- Let cool on cooling rack.
Tea Selection, Brewing, and Equipment:
For serious tea drinkers there are really only 2 important rules to follow.
- Start with new, fresh, cold water in the teapot. In other words, no reheating the water from earlier in the day!
- Use good quality tea, preferably loose.
Some Compass Roam suggestions:
- In my family, we love Fortnum and Mason, and loose tea from The Wolseley.
- A good teapot matters! I like these smaller ones from Heath Ceramics.
- I’m also obsessed with these beautiful tea cups from Sanny Ceramics.
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