* Part 1 of a series *
My biggest regret after my short vacation in the city of my dreams is not that I wasn’t able to see some of its most iconic tourist attractions like the Tower of London or the Tower Bridge or even Westminster Abbey — it’s the fact that I didn’t get to experience a proper English afternoon tea. I have tons of excuses (It’s too expensive. I didn’t have the luxury of time. The serving was too much for me; my Bea wasn’t particularly keen on sharing the set with me. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…) but now I just hit myself on the head for having missed the once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy afternoon tea in the place where it all began. Oh, if only I could turn back time….
Tea makes me happy. I’ve been an avid tea drinker ever since I was barely out of my teens, and I’ve been obsessing over afternoon tea sets in Manila even long before my visit to the British capital. Afternoon Tea is not just a meal to help reduce hunger pangs before dinner; it is a time-honored ritual of privately enjoying a pot of tea with some light snack (i.e., bread and butter). First introduced by Duchess Anna of Bedford circa 1840, afternoon tea later on evolved as a posh social affair — with the ladies donning fashionable gowns, gloves and hats. These days in England, a proper afternoon tea is considered a luxury that is usually enjoyed on special occasions in hotels and some dining establishments.
Well, to make up for my missed opportunity in London, I have made it my personal mission to sample different afternoon tea offerings from various spots in Metro Manila, starting with this French-inspired bakery, restaurant and tea salon: Lartizan Boulangerie Française.
If you’re fond of The French Baker, then you’ll find its high-end sister-restaurant quite impressive. With classy chandeliers and elegant chairs, Lartizan offers stylish dining comforts and features an extensive menu of artisanal breads, pastries, breakfast, lunch and dinner specialties, afternoon tea, desserts and coffee. Of course, I went for Le Thé de Apres-Midi (Afternoon Tea) which is served daily between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.
Because afternoon tea is best shared with a friend, I invited my friend Steffi to join me for a bit of catching-up just a few days before she and her family leave for a 2-week vacation in New York. I thought it’s the perfect send-off for her because we both absolutely love sipping tea. The afternoon tea in Lartizan is available in either Le Petit (Regular – P590+) or Le Grande (Large – P850+). Naturally, I opted for the bigger serving. The two-tiered silver tray came with 3 English scones with a mini-jar of black currant jam and fresh clotted cream, 6 sweet pastries (2 mango tartlets, 2 Parisian macarons, a mini-chocolate eclair, and a mini-fruit-filled pate-a-choux), and 6 appetizers/savory pastries (2 mushroom mini-puffs, tuna-filled tomato, fresh mango cocktail shrimp boat, and 2 roasted chicken salad sandwich rolls). I found the selection very nice and tasty; Steffi and I were particularly delighted with the scones.
Not to be outdone by the delicious finger food, the tea at Lartizan is also something else. It’s from the Paris-based gourmet tea company, Mariage Frères (Mariage Brothers), the oldest French importer of fine tea. I’ve already tasted its Rouge Provence tea blend previously, so I decided to try the Jasmin Imperial with the set. It’s made with very rare green tea infused with the most refined jasmine flowers. Very soothing, very delightful. Tea preparation in Lartizan requires meticulous attention to the amount of tea leaves, water temperature and steeping time. In fact, there’s a timer that goes off before the carefully brewed tea is served on the dining table. It’s so grand! For its lovely tea salon, great food selection and exceptional tea, I highly recommend Lartizan‘s Afternoon Tea.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” — Henry James