Cottage Tea Rooms

High Tea In The Valley

About Cottage Tea Rooms

Cottage Tea Rooms has been a family run business since 2010. Cottage Tea Rooms was established on the idea that people should be able to have somewhere to come in, have a delicious, home-style meal, a tea or a coffee, and simply feel at home.

When owner, Sarah Lock, saw the cottage for sale, she went straight home to husband and informed him that she wanted to start a cafe` and she had the perfect place for it to be.

The cottage, that is now Cottage Tea Rooms, was originally a farm house for the winery that surrounds the cafe` that dates back to the early 1950s. It is located in the heart of the Swan Valley, and was simply a home with all the flourish and character of a '50s built house in the Valley. It would be Sarah's passion and determination that would transform into the Cottage Tea Rooms to what it is today.

History of the High Tea

Written By Douglas Sutherland-Bruce

There is something about the words ‘High Tea’ that immediately evokes visions of rolling green velvet lawns, Edwardian butlers called Hudson, footmen called Edward and pert maids called Emily together with wafer-thin cucumber sandwiches, iced petit fours and porcelain so thin you can see through it.

It is a tradition stretching back to the mid-1800s - an institution begun by the Duchess of Bedford.

Around this time, gas or oil light was introduced in wealthier homes, and eating a late dinner (around eight or nine at night) became fashionable.

At the time, there were only two meals each day -- a mid-morning, breakfast-like meal and the other was an increasingly late dinner-like meal.

The story goes that the Duchess found herself with a “sinking feeling” (likely fatigue from hunger during the long wait between meals) and decided to have some friends over for assorted snacks and tea (a highly fashionable drink of the time).

The idea of an afternoon tea gathering spread across high society and became a favourite pastime of ladies of leisure. Later, as fashion does, it spread beyond the elite circles and became more accessible for other socio-economic groups.

This, very properly, was called ‘afternoon tea’ and not to be confused with ‘high tea’, a fairly substantial meal eaten by working men at about five o’clock after the main meal of the day taken at about noon and called ‘dinner’.

Since then the idea has become once more fashionable and now re-christened ‘high tea’ afternoon tea is again being offered by the better Tea Rooms and establishments.

The mainstay of these High Teas, is, quite naturally, tea. Traditionally loose leaf Indian or China tea is used, requiring the use of a tea strainer (always silver) and usually one of the better brands such as Twinings Earl Grey or Jackson’s of Piccadilly Queen Mary mix.

It has been said that the choice of tea is vital, but Lady Nancy Astor took it all a step further. Guests would be asked routinely - ‘Indian or Chinese? Milk or Cream? Milk, - Jersey or Shorthorn?’

The English afternoon tea ceremony is nearly as complex and rooted in tradition as is the Japanese - take the pot to the kettle, not the other way round; warm the pot; one spoon of tea for each person and one for the pot; allow it to steep and then pour.

The argument of whether or not the milk goes in first I’ll avoid except to say that the practice arose because the first cups used were so thin that it was feared they might break if the tea went in too hot and Eric Blair (George Orwell, a noted tea drinker) thought you could only regulate the degree of milkiness if the milk went in last.

To make tea properly these are the steps:

  1. Firstly, choose your tea/s. You really do not need more than two or perhaps three varieties and it is wise to stick with popular choices such as Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Assam or Lapsang Souchong. Always choose to use leaf tea rather than teabags - but that's very much a matter of personal choice.

  2. Use a ceramic teapot in preference to metal as the latter can adversely affect the taste of the tea.

  3. Bring a kettle of fresh cold water almost to the boil. Pour a little of the water into the teapot to warm it, and then discard the water.

  4. Now add the tea to the pot - one teaspoon per cup, plus an extra spoon "for the pot".

  5. Pour the near boiling water over the leaves and replace the teapot lid.

  6. Leave the tea to brew for three to five minutes depending on how strong you like it.

  7. Pour the tea through a tea strainer into a teacup, which is sitting on a saucer. Don't overfill the cup. Offer fresh milk or lemon, and sugar cubes for sweetener.

  8. If the tea becomes too strong, you can dilute it with more near boiling water.

  9. Empty the teapot after about fifteen minutes otherwise the tea will become "stewed".

Vanilla Rooibos - A relaxed fusion of sweet Rooibos tea with velvety vanilla. A match made in heaven for any sweet tooth.