Mid-nibble of a buttery mini teacake, my attention is wrenched away from the quality and refinement of the new tea room at Harrods to a conspicuously loud slurp. Stifling a giggle, I seek out the culprit and discover the noisy intake of liquid is part of a professional demonstration on how to taste tea.
A range of black, green, fruit and ‘exclusive’ teas are available to taste and I discover the slurping is a technique to oxidise the tea. This is followed by swirling it like mouthwash to coat the entire palate. I’m all ready to gargle but it’s time to gulp it down and discuss. My reactions are basic, consisting of ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ but in the professional commentary, I hear phrases like ‘robust cut’ and ‘full and enticing’.
Being an unadventurous English Breakfast girl, it was a pleasure to taste a selection of teas from around the world. A delicate rose tea stood out and a show-stopping moment was a beautiful golden waterfall produced by pouring the 22-carat gold tea. Drinking gold is surely a waste of a potential earring? But the tasting notes revealed it was actually a black tea with ‘an abundance of golden tips’.
Back in my comfort zone I then sampled the food on offer. Don’t be misled by this eatery’s name. As well as serving alcohol, the Tea Room offers a range of hot and cold British staples at any time of the day. I tried the yoghurt and rhubarb compote which was a fresh healthy option. A savoury bun felt vaguely virtuous but then I turned to the main event.
For some people, afternoon tea may be about the tea, but for me, it’s all about the cakes. A cake stand with a dozen inviting varieties sent me into a spin of indecision. Was it too early for a boozy English trifle? How many could I manage before feeling sick?
The strawberry jam tart with rosewater scented marshmallows was memorable as was the thick wedge of icing on the Victoria sandwich. I could have eaten several of the passionfruit possets but after polishing off a chocolate and mint dome, my self-control decided to reappear.
There are various levels of indulgence for this tradition. You can limit yourself to tea and scones for £12.50 or choose five afternoon tea fancies for £14.50. My favourite is to tuck in to the lot which includes sandwiches, scones and fancies for £29. Or spoil yourself further with a glass of champagne as well for £36.
The setting is not quite as lush as I imagined Harrods might opt for but it’s comfortable and pleasant and any time spent in the Tea Room is the perfect antidote to the rush and stresses of life, particularly at this time of year.
Harrods Tea Room
87-135 Brompton Road
Tel: 020 8479 5100
Image by Magnus D courtesy of Flickr