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Art of tea

Waitress Abby Chambers carries tea cups before a traditional English tea time at the Tudor Rose English Tea Room in Santa Rosa.

Conner Jay/PD
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 2:03 p.m.

It's a fantasy for weary moms on Mother's Day: To be waited upon like a queen. So when the kids or hubby show up with a tray of dainty tea sandwiches and a steaming cup of tea, mum will think she fell down the rabbit hole and into a Mad Hatter's tea party.

Liverpool native Angela Grant, who opened the Tudor Rose English Tea Room in Santa Rosa this spring, shared some of the secrets of the traditional English tea, just in time to serve your own version for Mother's Day.

“Put the kettle on for a cup of tea,” is a familiar refrain heard by Grant when she goes back to Northern England to visit her family.

“They drink tea every day, all day,” said Grant, who was lost, roaming the moors in Devon, when she stumbled upon salvation in the form of a tea house and decided to open her own version in the North Bay.

Since launching in early April, the cottage-like Tudor Rose English Tea Room has provided men and women with respite in the form of couches and a fireplace, reading lamps and nooks, plus refreshments.

With the recent closure of Jacqueline's High Tea in Petaluma, everyone from British ex-pats to grandmothers and granddaughters have been showing up at the door.

“Women are saying, 'We finally have a place to go,'” Grant said. “'And we feel welcome here, like we're in somebody's house.'”

Just to set the record straight, “high tea” is not the fancy one, even though it sounds that way.

“High Tea is for the commoners,” Grant explained. “It's a 6 o'clock meal, with sandwiches, salad, soup and pasties.”

“Low tea” is the tea traditionally enjoyed by the upper classes as a way to tide their appetites over in the late afternoon, she said. That's where you'll find those cute little tea sandwiches and scones accompanied by small pots of jam and clotted cream.

“Apart from cakes, everything in England is small and finger-sized,” Grant said. “They are not huge amounts.”

Tudor Rose executive chef Monique Wallace concocts a wide range of tea sandwiches, from the traditional English Cucumber Mint to more contemporary combinations like Creamed Point Reyes Blue Cheese with Poached Pears.

It's important to choose a soft bread for the sandwiches, said Wallace, who orders her white and wheat bread from Franco-American Bakery, then cuts the crusts off.

In addition to tea sandwiches, the Tudor Rose's prix fixe menu of “set teas” also includes savory items like cheddar and onion scones, housemade sausage rolls or individual quiches.

“Our quiche crust is really flaky,” Wallace said. “The secret is don't over-mix it. It may not look ready, but it is.”

Although the scones have been flying out the door, Wallace is keeping that recipe a secret — even from Grant.

“Everybody's raving about the scones,” Grant said. “The scones are a big hit. Women are even buying them to go.”

Instead, Wallace shared a recipe for Raspberry Merengue Rosettes, which are light as a cloud.

Wallace, who graduated from the Santa Rosa Junior College Culinary Arts Program in 2009, also makes a wide range of sweets ranging from Jam Tarts to Chocolate Eclairs. The tea room's desserts will change with the season.

“We'll be doing trifles in the summer, served in little bowls,” Grant said. “And we'll do a summer pudding, which is a bread pudding soaked in the fruit juices, with fresh fruit on top.”

The tea room sources its organic jams from Hurley's Farms of Napa Valley. Wallace makes her own lemon curd from a secret stash of Meyer lemons.

Grant, who is very particular about her tea, searched high and wide for a local source of bold-tasting tea.

The Tudor Rose English Tea Room serves 18 different loose-leaf, organic teas from Mr. Trombly's Tea Shop in Duncans Mills, including eight black, six red and four green teas.

“We were there for three hours tasting tea,” she said. “And every one was better than the last.”

It's important to learn how to brew the tea that you are going to serve. Black and red tea require very hot water, Grant said, while the water for green tea should be less hot.

“We steep the black and red tea for four to seven minutes,” she said. “We steep the green tea for only three to six minutes.”

The following recipes are from Monique Wallace of the Tudoe Rose English Tea Room in Santa Rosa.

Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwiches

Makes 9 servings (36 finger sandwiches)

1 loaf white bread

1 whole thinly sliced English cucumber

— The leaves from 2 large sprigs of fresh mint (whole or chopped)

1 cube softened butter

— Lemon juice to taste

— Salt & pepper to taste

Cut crust off of bread using a cake knife or serrated knife. For every two slices of bread, spread both slices evenly & thinly with butter.

Cover one side of the sandwich with thinly sliced cucumbers in one to two layers. Add a thin layer of fresh mint. Season with lemon juice salt and/or pepper.

Put the slices together, and slice bread diagonally two times to create four triangle finger sandwiches. Repeat with the rest of hte bread until the cucumbers and mint are gone.

Blue Cheese and Pear Tea Sandwiches

Makes 9 servings (36 finger sandwiches)

1 loaf wheat bread

2 thinly sliced, peeled and cored Bartlett pears

½ cup blue cheese

¼ cup cream cheese

Cut crust off of bread using a cake knife or serrated knife. Mix in a mixing bowl the goat cheese and cream cheese. For every two pieces of bread, spread cheese mixture thinly onto both pieces of bread. Cover one side of the sandwich with thinly sliced pears, Put the slices together, and slice bread diagonally two times to create four triangle finger sandwiches. Repeat with the rest of the bread until the pears and cheese are gone.

Vegetable Quiche

Makes 12 servings

For the crust:

4 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons salt

1½ cups chilled shortening

½ cup ice water

For filling:

¼ cup chopped leeks (white part only)

8 ounces spinach (chopped)

2 ounces feta cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

For the custard:

3 eggs

½ cup of milk

— Salt & pepper to taste

For crust: Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the texture of oatmeal. Sprinkle water over surface a tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork after each addition. (pastry should just hold together.) Wrap in plastic wrap and rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

When dough is ready bring out of refrigerator. Roll out dough and use a 3- 4-inch circle cookie cutter to cut out 12 circles. Place each circle of dough in a 12-cup muffin pan.

For filling: Mix all ingredients together. Civide all filling into dough cups evenly.

For the custard: Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper with a whisk until well combined. Pour custard over filling not to go over the dough line.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Raspberry Meringue Roses

Makes 28 2-inch cookies

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon salt

3 ounces raspberry Jell-o

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup frozen raspberries

Whip egg whites until frothy. Add half the sugar. When soft peeks form, add the rest of the sugar and increase speed to high. When stiff peeks form add the raspberry Jell-o.

Keep beating meringue until very stiff and glossy. Reduce speed of mixer to low and add the vanilla extract and raspberries.

Use a pastry bag with a ¾-inch star tip to pipe rosettes. Fill pastry bag with meringue. Pipe rosettes starting from the inside and going around counter clockwise working your way out making the rosette as big or as petite as you want.

Bake at 200 degrees until thoroughly dry (about 1 hour). Let them cool to room temperature before serving.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peteson@pressdemocrat.com.

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