Afternoon Tea or High Tea?
Located just 40 minutes from us, we decided to venture for Afternoon Tea at Tea And Cake in Almonte, Ontario. Formerly operated as The Robin’s Nest, the new owner, Gwendolyn Neelin, is rumored to have big shoes to fill as the former restaurant and owner developed a stellar reputation for their offerings.
Tea and Cake is self-described as a traditional tea room where they “serve fresh, seasonal food made in-house for breakfast, lunch, high tea and event catering, as well as custom cakes and take-home meals for your special events and every day.” The misuse of high tea when intending afternoon tea always strikes me as an easy mistake to avoid. Unfortunately, North American restaurants have instilled the misnomer to the point where its prevalence is rampant.
We did make reservations in advance. Tea And Cake is a quaint establishment with fewer than 15 tables and it definitely can get busy. It’s a warm and inviting establishment with a shelf of vintage china on display and a lovely plate wall opposite to it.
The Devil is in The Details
Our table was nicely set. As luck would have it, I got the only mismatched worn teacup and saucer in the room. I have a fondness for well-paired mismatched china as we explored in last week’s blog but the use of cheap Chinese pieces in a traditional tea room is a faux-pas in my book. With the wide availability of beautiful bone china, making sure that pieces are in impeccable condition is demise. Several other tables set and ready for guests featured beautiful Paragon and Royal Albert pieces.
The service was prompt and friendly. Creatures of habit, we selected a pot of Earl Grey to share from the tea menu of approximately 15 teas. Much to our surprise, loose leaf tea is not offered. Unfortunately, between the first and second courses, our server arrived to refresh our pot adding hot water to our over-steeped tea. Ideally, bags should be removed within the first 5 minutes and a vessel for holding the used bags set with the table. Steeping tea longer than this allows the leaves to release tannins making the tea bitter. To learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea, click here to visit the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada site and see the recommendations for different types of tea.
Our tiered tray arrived promptly. We set ourselves upon the savories course which included turkey and cranberry sandwich, cucumber and cream cheese sandwich as well as a classic egg sandwich. We started by sampling the classic cucumber sandwich. The white bread was fresh and the sandwich married well with our Earl Grey tea. It was a good take on a standard afternoon tea offering. Next, the egg sandwich was surprisingly filled with large pieces of onion. It was difficult to overcome given the portion of real estate they occupied in relation to the egg salad mixture. We finished the course with the turkey and cranberry sandwich.
Moving Up The Tiers
The scones course is an important element of afternoon tea, a pause between the savory and the sweet. Our scones were more akin to regular tea biscuits but were good and served with butter and jam.
Making it to The Top
One thing that is always deceiving with afternoon tea is the amount of food. This was no exception when we enjoyed afternoon tea at Tea and Cake. It was hard not to notice the generous portion of carrot cake that governed the top tier of our stand. It was moist and delicious with the perfect balance of tasty cream cheese frosting. It may be the best carrot cake I’ve tasted. Accompanying the cake was a lemon square, sugar cookie, and a brownie. The brownies were very good but the lemon square and sugar cookie were not standouts.
Taking Afternoon Tea To The Next Level
Afternoon Tea is always an opportunity to take pause and enjoy a little bit of time to stop our busy world. Our experience for Afternoon Tea at Tea and Cake was pleasant. A few adjustments could take this experience to the next level offering guests a more authentic tea experience:
- Thinking outside the box when preparing the savories course. It doesn’t have to be reserved to traditional sandwiches.
- Offering loose leaf teas
- Building the cost of the lemon curd and the clotted cream into the price of the experience making them a standard part of the offering.
- Avoiding over-steeping teas
We base our reviews on the following criteria:
- ATMOSPHERE INCLUDING THE SELECTION AND CONDITION OF THE CHINA
- TEA/FOOD SELECTION, QUALITY, AND TASTE
$21.50 CAD/person plus $2.00 extra for lemon curd or clotted cream. Applicable taxes and tip extra.
Street parking is available.