Saturday, 11 December 2010

Family teas? Yes please!

Christmas is approaching fast and amongst the flurry of shopping, office parties and endless cooking it’s often difficult to find time to plan something special for all the family to do together.  If you are looking for something new to do during the festive season which needs the minimum of organisation, how about going out for afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea is a fantastic Christmas treat; face it who doesn’t enjoy eating lovely cakes, sandwiches and dainty scones?  It’s relaxing, fun and is also a great opportunity to introduce children to eating out. Not only is tea served mid afternoon but most of the foods on the menu will be familiar.  Children will love playing grown up and will also enjoy learning about how things are done without the pressure of a three course restaurant meal.

You may wonder about children drinking tea and if it is suitable choice for them.  According to the Tea Council, tea is actually a healthier choice than most fizzy drinks, hot chocolate or even milk shakes.  So your children fancy a cuppa it’s ok to let them try one, just make sure its not too hot!
Afternoon tea is becoming very popular for families, although most hotels and tea rooms will allow children, there are a growing number of places specialising in teas especially for kids. Amongst these is the Lowry Hotel in Salford where children have their own menu. A selection of finger sandwiches is followed by gingerbread matchstick men (to decorate with icing and 100’s and 1000’s). Then comes jelly and ice cream all washed down with milk and cookies (£6.50).
At Canterbury-based ,1930’s themed, Tiny Tim's Tearoom there is a Gingerbread Tea for under twelve’s which is served on a three-tiered stand and consists of finger sandwiches filled with cheese, marmite, jam or ham; a scone with cream and jam and a Bentley gingerbread biscuit - in the shape of a dog (£6.15).
There are also a number of places in London with special menus. At the St James Restaurant at Fortnum and Masons children between four and ten years old, can choose from a selection of canap├ęs, followed by finger sandwiches, scones, raspberry jam biscuit and afternoon tea cakes.  This is served with Fortnum’s Classic Blend Tea, hot chocolate, or fruit juice (£17). At the Park Room & Library  over looking Hyde Park, children can enjoy Grover's Tea Time which includes tropical fruit salad, homemade bite sized sponge cakes, a choice of ice cream and glass of Luscombe wild elderflower bubbly and their very own cuddly Grover bulldog to take home  (£9.50). 
In St Andrews, Scotland at The Old Course Hotel, the menu reads like a birthday tea with Dairylea cheese, peanut butter, jam or Nutella sandwiches.  Followed by jelly and ice cream, swiss roll, iced cherry fairy cakes, rice crispy cakes and a selection of organic fruit juices (£8)
If you can’t afford to go out for tea at a tearoom, hotel or restaurant you can always recreate the experience at home.  Make it a family affair and let the kids get involved in helping you prepare the food or setting the table. Classic food choices are simple finger sandwiches, cucumber and soft cheese is a lovely combination or perhaps egg mayo or ham. Follow this with scones with lots of jam and cream, and a few shop bought cream cakes or cookies for a treat.  Don’t forget, the all important cup of tea! Set the table with a lovely tablecloth, your best china and a posy of flowers and you're all set. Bottoms up!

Carol Oldham is the director of vintage crockery company Dormouse and the Teapot  she writes over at the Domouse and the Teapot blog  and lives in the north west. She loves winter walks, singing out of key and is addicted to tea in a china cup.

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