Hooray! Now you can join the Mad Hatter's tea party

Cafe Hemingway's in Joburg offers whimsically-themed high teas like 'Alice in Wonderland' and the 'Great Gatsby'

14 December 2017 - 12:49 By UFRIEDA HO
High tea at Hemingway's.
High tea at Hemingway's.
Image: Supplied

Everyone deserves an excuse to disappear down a rabbit hole at this time of the year, especially if the end destination is a grown-ups' tea party that includes unicorn cupcakes and a glass of bubbles.

High teas were the mid-afternoon pause for the British working class to have a sandwich or a pastry and tea. The story goes that many workers took these breaks standing up and that's how the term "high" got attached to their "tea-taking".

Afternoon teas have a posher origin. It was apparently Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford who, in the 1840s, decided she could not bear the long hours between lunch and dinner and decided to sit down in the parlour for a snack between meals.

Today high tea is still about individual portions of sweet and savoury yummies piled onto tiered serving plates for nibbling.

The usual suspects include crustless triangles of paper-thin slices of cucumber on buttered white bread, scones with clotted cream and teas, from Earl Grey and Darjeeling to Orange Pekoe and Lapsang Souchong. Reimagined traditions of high teas around the world these days include everything from mini-mooncakes and burgers to sushi.

Café Hemingway's in Kyalami, Joburg has relaunched its high tea as a drop-in option - though it's still best to book ahead.

The emphasis is on all things pretty, and the attention to presentation means you eat with your eyes first. Expect tables beautifully styled with morsels and tidbits of deliciousness. They're crammed on tiered serving platters, displayed inside steel bird cages and hidden between vases of flowers, pots of teas and huddles of cocktail glasses.

There are six high tea options at Hemingway's. They include the Alice in Wonderland themed tea, a 1920s Great Gatsby themed tea and the ultimate in indulgence, the Marie Antoinette offering. Prices range from R250 to R400 for food only.

On offer are mini smoked salmon croissants, tiny quiches, oysters with champagne foam, deep-fried Camembert, prawn and lime shots, rainbow macarons, cheesecakes in jars and, of course, unicorn cupcakes.

Eat? Try everything; that's the beauty of mini versions of your favourites. Drink? Bubbles.

• This article was originally published in The Times