“A proper afternoon tea is an experience to be savoured, not rushed. When I arrived for tea, a charming waitperson offered me a glass of sherry – a wonderful way to meet the other guests before tea was served. The well-appointed tea table, the exquisite tea fare and the aromatic and superbly brewed loose leaf tea made the event memorable.”
Sipping sherry is hip. Cool. And enjoying a well-deserved renaissance.
This fortified wine is of Spanish birth, although there are very respectable cousins in Australia and South Africa. The operative word however is fortified – which explains why sherry is served by the thimble in specialty gasses – known as sherry glasses, of course.
Thanks to the efforts of a stellar English chef, Heston Blumenthal, and renown wine writer Jancis Robinson, sipping sherry and tea are very fashionable. Blumenthal is the chef-owner of the Michelin triple-starred Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire and Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. Described by Decanter magazine as ‘the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world’, Jancis Robinson writes about wine for the Financial Times as well as many other publications. So when they take up cause of sherry and tea, we know a huge trend is about to be unleashed around the world. In other words, we pay attention.
Blumenthal said he regretted the decline in popularity of sherry, which was a vital part of afternoon tea as conceived by the Victorians: “I think it’s a very under-rated drink. Sherry has a fantastic affinity with food,” the renowned chef said recently.
Afternoon tea is the very splendid idea of Anna, Duchess of Bedford, a Lady-in-waitng to Queen Victoria. “Here in London the afternoon tea had the most high-rising socialites fighting to make theirs the best. They were very decadent parties,” says Chef Blumenthal.
So if you find yourself in the deep freeze that is currently gripping North America, keep calm and sip a glass of sherry followed by a lovely pot of hot tea.
If you have a family story or two about tea and sherry, please let us know. We are collecting stories for possible inclusion in a future book.