For many of you who have been following The Epicurious Life know my love for afternoon high teas. Growing up in Hong Kong exposed me to a lot of British traditions and having a nice, leisurely afternoon tea party with a small gathering of friends or family is a great way to pass a few hours.
The designer in me always want to be creative with table setting and plating. I love coming up with new themes and once I know I am having people over I gather my most inspirational household item and revolve my theme around that. For this particular tea party my theme was “garden party” because my house in Hong Kong feels like a tropical rainforest. The outside garden can be opened up to the living room which is one big space in conjunction with the dining room. You get a very open feeling and in one with nature. You need only swing open our doors to hear the birds chirping and you have an instantly perfectly set up mood.
Meanwhile, the chef in me wants to provide a variety of food that would delight the senses of my guests. I like to throw in a few surprises here and there. Since I was going for the full on British high tea I decided not to serve your typical scones and finger sandwiches. I decided to serve a more selective range of Asian pastries along with my favorite Earl Grey tea.
I am a lover of tea. Never quite got into drinking coffee my whole life and I am glad because it sure does save me morning runs I would be making to Starbucks. Not to mention the health benefits of drinking tea such as encouraging weight loss and helping with such illnesses as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even lowering cholesterol. I have tried many different types of tea both traditional and new – green tea, black tea, jasmine, pu-erh (a Chinese favorite), oolong, white tea. Yet I keep coming back again and again to Earl Grey. It goes well with everything, in my opinion.
These are pastries that I grew up eating and always gives me a sense of “home”. You can buy them in any local Cantonese bakery which are a dime a dozen on every corner of Hong Kong. Even in other parts of the world you can find these buns easily if you can find a local Hong Kong bakery in your area. The round ones are pineapple buns, known as “bo lo bau” (菠蘿包). I love the crusty layer on top of the bun. The other elongated pastry is called Kai Mei Pau (雞尾包). They are really light and fluffy with a coconut buttercream filling. It sounds sweet and heavy but it isn’t at all and goes superbly well with Earl Grey tea.
Many of you will probably be wondering why I am serving this popular Taiwanese breakfast sandwich called Xiao Bing You Tiao which is basically fried stick doughs wrapped with a sesame topped pancake. I probably did a horrible job trying to describe it in English but the picture will do a better job showing you what it is than I can.
Mango has been one of my favorite fruits since I was a child. It doesn’t even seem like a fruit to me because it is so sweet and the texture is so smooth and soft. A ripe mango can almost just melt in your mouth and slide right down into your tummy. Mmmmm!
This has to be one of my favorite tea sets. My mom bought it during one of our trips to Indonesia. One of the things my mom has always loved doing is shop whilst visiting other countries. She loves bringing things back so that we can either display it at home or use it for parties such as this. When I was younger I didn’t appreciate the time she spent doing this and thought all she did was shop. But now I see that it really does help to have such collections because now I can use all that for my artful blogging.
Another great snack is roasted pecans. I can eat a whole bowl of them!!! I pretty much devoured the first half of the bowl of pecans shown in the picture above. I had to be polite and leave some for the guests so I controlled myself after that.
And there you have it. A quick blog for a few hours of yummy goodness that you can easily do at home too. You can always substitute any of the above for something you can find locally if what I have blogged isn’t available to you. Be creative. There is no right or wrong when it comes to serving tea. Just have fun with it and more importantly fill that belly.