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Afternoon Tea Is The New Happy Hour

by Emeric Harney May 06, 2022 7 min read

Afternoon Tea Is The New Happy Hour

When Pinterest announced earlier this year that afternoon tea is the new happy hour, the news came as no surprise to us. As purveyors and enthusiasts of fine teas, we’ve long known the joys of a true afternoon tea. This enjoyable ritual has swiftly gained popularity, with Pinterest basing their prediction of afternoon tea as the new happy hour on the interests of 444 million Pinterest users worldwide, many of whom said they would choose tea with a friend over drinks after work in an online survey. And if you search for #afternoontea on Instagram, be prepared to spend the rest of the week looking at the over six million posts.

There are a couple of theories out there about why afternoon tea has become the new cool thing. One is the pandemic, which has changed a lot of what and how people do things. Due to staying home more (especially during the first year or so), going out for happy hour just didn’t happen. While there was a reported surge in alcohol sales initially during the pandemic, there was at the same time an increased interest in health and wellness (just maybe not by the same people!). The well-known health benefits of teas like rooibosgreen teas and wellness teas certainly added fuel to the afternoon tea fire.

Another theory is that the 20- and 30-something crowd may be becoming more interested as they collect grandmother’s china tea sets and fancy spoons. Another stat Pinterest reported was that searches for vintage tea sets were up by 70%. There’s no denying the facts: tea is cool.

If inviting friends over to unwind and enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea appeals to you, we’ve put together some recipes to help you put together a casual yet elegant affair. Here’s to the new happy hour! Cheers!

First Up: The Basics of Afternoon Tea

To set the scene and put you in a true afternoon tea frame of mind, we suggest you read our blog Tea Like the Brits because, well, who better to school all of us on the proper way to do tea. You’ll find tips on what to serve, the difference between afternoon tea, cream tea and high tea, what cream tea is (not what you probably think), royal tea (served with champagne!) and most importantly, tips on etiquette. Your tea doesn’t have to be a stiff, formal affair, but a little decorum can’t hurt, right?

Want to make sure you’re brewing your tea correctly? Check out our Tea 101 page where you’ll find tips on making the best cup of tea of your life. As to what tea to serve, our answer will always be this: serve tea that makes you smile!

Next: Savory and Sweet Things

There are several eats that are ubiquitous at afternoon teas like cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, macarons and petit fours. But rather than give you recipes for those, which you can find on the internet or the cookbooks in your pantry, we thought we’d share some special recipes from the Harney & Sons The Tea Cookbook authored by the award-winning cookbook author and food writer Joanna Pruess along with our founder and my grandfather, John Harney. Enjoy!

Thousand-Year-Old Deviled Eggs With Crab

This is a traditional Chinese appetizer but our version is up-to-the-minute. The marble pattern intensifies the longer the shelled eggs are exposed to air. Makes 12 half eggs.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • Darjeeling or other black tea teabags
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 oz. crabmeat, picked over and flaked
  • ¼ C minced shallots
  • 2 tbsp minced pickled ginger, plus additional slices for garnish
  • 1 tbsp pickled ginger liquid
  • Pinch of powdered wasabi or dab wasabi paste
  • 6 tbsp mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp rice wine vinegar, plus more as desired
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Chives to garnish

Instructions:

  1. Put the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and set aside. When cool enough to handle, gently roll them on a counter to crack the shells all over. Don’t peel.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the teabags and soy sauce and steep for 5 minutes. Discard the teabags, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible. Place the eggs into the liquid and simmer gently for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours in the liquid.
  3. Drain the eggs, peel, blot dry and let them stand for at least 1 hour (or longer in the refrigerator) for the marbled pattern to develop. Carefully cut the eggs in half lengthwise and remove and mash the yolks. Combine the yolks with the crabmeat, shallots and minced pickled ginger. Blend the pickled ginger liquid, wasabi, mayonnaise and vinegar together; then combine this with the crab mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Fill each egg half with a rounded mound of the crab mixture. Top with a small slice of pickled ginger and small pieces of chive.

View the recipe card here. 

Tea’s Toasts

Here’s a pair of tempting hors d’oeuvres bites. The different cheeses and teas make them distinct: Number I is subtly nutty and smoky; number II is more herbaceous. Serve one or both, but either way, allow the warm toasts to cool a minute or two to let the flavors come through. Makes 24.

Tea’s Toasts I Ingredients:

  • 1 C finely shredded Gruyère or other Swiss cheese
  • ¼ C grated imported Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp  Earl Grey tea leaves, finely ground
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 12 cocktail-size slices European-style whole grain dark pumpernickel bread

Tea’s Toasts II Ingredients:

  • 1 C finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ¼ C toasted fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp  green tea leaves, finely ground
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 12 cocktail-size slices Danish-style light rye bread

Instructions:

  1. Turn on a toaster oven or conventional oven to broil. Lay the bread on a pan or cookie sheet.
  2. For Tea’s Toasts I, combine both cheese with the shallots, tea and mayonnaise in a bowl. Spread on the pumpernickel bread, patting to smooth. Broil until the cheese is hot and bubbling, watching that the cheese doesn’t burn. Remove and serve.
  3. For Tea’s Toasts II, combine the cheese, breadcrumbs, tea and mayonnaise together in a bowl. Spread on the light rye bread, patting to smooth. Broil until the cheese is hot and bubbling, watching that it doesn’t burn. Remove and serve.

View the recipe card here. 

Savory Swirls

These small, flaky pastries – swirled with a layer of Irish Breakfast tea and sautéed onions – are another tasty cocktail nibble sure to draw raves from your guests. Makes about 4 dozen.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ¼ C finely chopped onions
  • 2 tbsp  Irish Breakfast tea leaves
  • 2 tbsp chicken or vegetable stock, or more as needed
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. frozen all-butter puff pastry, defrosted according to package directions

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and sauté just until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Scrape them into the jar of an electric blender; add the tea, 2 tablespoons of stock, the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and purée until smooth, adding more stock if necessary to smooth out the mixture. Set aside.
  2. Lightly flour a work space and rolling pin. Roll the pastry into a 6 x 18-inch rectangle; brush off any excess flour. Working with the long side horizontal, spread the onion-tea mixture over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border at the uppermost edge. Starting with the bottom long edge, roll up the pastry jelly roll fashion, gently pressing the top edge to seal. Carefully wrap in plastic wrap, gently flattening the roll slightly so the spirals are oval shaped. Refrigerate the pastry on a cookie sheet until firm, at least 2 hours. (This may be done up to 4 days ahead of time.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment.
  4. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll crosswise into ⅜-inch slices. Place the slices on the parchment, leaving a 1-inch space between them.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are lightly browned, 11 to 15 minutes. If using 2 pans, rotate the pans during baking for even cooking. Turn each swirl with a spatula and bake until the second side is lightly browned and the centers are cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pans, slide the swirls onto a rack to cool and continue until all swirls are baked. When cool, store in a container with a loose-fitting lid. 

View the recipe card here.

Orange-Cranberry-Jasmine Biscotti

Dried cranberries and orange set against the delicate floral bouquet of jasmine tea in these perfectly dunkable biscotti. What to serve with them? Jasmine tea for sure, or a little sherry! Makes about 3 dozen.

Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¾ C sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 ¼ C all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp finely ground  jasmine tea
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ C chopped almonds, toasted
  • ¼ C dried cranberries sweetened with orange

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs and orange juice. Sift the flour, tea, baking powder and salt together; blend the mixture into the butter. Add the almonds and dried cranberries and mix well.
  3. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 flat loaves measuring about 10 x 2 inches. Place the loaves on a cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake until slightly brown on top, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Cut the loaves crosswise into ½-inch slices and lay them, cut side down, on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove and cool on wire racks. Store in a container with a loose-fitting lid.

View the recipe card here. 

Raspberry Champagne Cordial

If afternoon tea is the new happy hour, why not incorporate the best of both worlds! A light champagne cocktail with its three layers of color that is as festive in the glass as it is delicious in your mouth! Serves 6.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Bring ½ cup of water just to a boil. Stir in the tea leaves and sugar and steep for 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the liquid into a small spouted measuring cup, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible and refrigerate until cold.
  2. Pour the champagne into 6 flutes. Slightly tipping each glass, carefully pour about 1 ½ tablespoons of the chilled tea down the interior side of each flute. Add 2 to 3 raspberries to each and serve.

View the recipe card here. 

Emeric Harney
Emeric Harney


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