Do you know the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?
The terms are used interchangeably, but according to Internet research (teatimemagazine.com, the.republicoftea.com, hightea.com) they’re about as different as a light morning mimosa and a glass of full-bodied red wine at dinner.
Historically speaking, High Tea was served around 6 p.m. at an elevated (high) table, featuring mainly hot, hearty and meaty foods.
Afternoon Tea is said to have originated with the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, around 1840. She was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria, whom she served as a Lady of the Bedchamber between 1837 and 1841.
The Duchess started Afternoon Tea because, well, she was hungry! With no meals between breakfast and dinner (often served much later in the evening), she began requesting snacks and tea from her staff in the afternoons, a mini meal which eventually gained popularity with all of Great Britain.
For Peninsula residents seeking the same, four area tea houses offer exquisite, such experiences!
Coral Tree Tea House
- Located on the main floor of the historic 1887 McConaughy House, 2490 Heritage Park Row, Old Town; opens 11 a.m., Thursdays-Sundays, closing time varies; cost $17-$40; (619) 291-5464, coraltreeteahouse.com
Coral Tree Tea House is the perfect spot for afternoon tea with your closest friends and family — young ones included. Being a family-owned business by a trio of cousins — Pamela, Blanche and Chuck Catania — Pamela said they felt it appropriate to take families with toddlers and babies (especially considering the military community), one of the few tea houses in San Diego to do so.
With more than 40 teas to choose from, the herbal and rooibos teas are this shop’s specialty. Their featured House Tea is the Coral Tree Tea, a creamy concoction of carefully blended essence of chocolate and coconut, named for the coral tree in front of the Victorian building.
The Tea House’s signature scone is the Toffee Chocolate Scone, made in-house like all other goodies offered (except the sandwich bread).
Eyeing the upcoming Halloween holiday, Pamela shared that a woman’s spirit is said to reside in the home: that of Mary McConaughy. She was once the bookkeeper of the shop, and employees and customers alike have reported feeling her presence throughout the home. From time to time, she’ll make her manifestation more tangible — by closing out the register or laying out all the Victorian greeting cards. “She’s very friendly,” Pamela promised.
Fall Highlights: October’s Scone-of-the-Month is the Pumpkin Raisin Scone. Returning autumn tea favorites include Gabi’s Tea (pumpkin pie and cinnamon spice blend) and Nancy’s Tea (a comforting blend of cinnamon, apple and vanilla), named after two grandchildren.
Tea at the Cosmopolitan
- 2660 Calhoun St. in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park; open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; $25 per person; RSVP (619) 297-1874; OldTownCosmopolitan.com
For those seeking an intimate experience, Afternoon Tea at the Cosmopolitan offers a tea for two — beautifully arranged, featuring Spanish and American cuisine in dainty bites.
Three service tiers include savories and sweets (such as an open face brioche with skirt steak, mango salsa and avocado cream); scones of manchego with roasted corn and red pepper; and chocolate-drizzled churros alongside red velvet flan, to name a few. Both guests may choose a pot of tea and change it out for a different blend at any time. The Old Victorian setting perfectly complements the experience, which could be considered a quaint, locals-only spot.
Fall Highlights: General manager Brandon Ross suggests guests keep a look-out for seasonal changes this Christmas.
Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe
- 3719 India St., open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday; seatings at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $29.95 per adult, $22.95 per child. Themed events: $42.95, by reservation only. No children under age 4. (619) 683-2748. sandiegoafternoontea.com
Selina Stockley, owner of Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe, has never drank a cup of coffee in her life, she tells Point Loma-OB Monthly. Hailing from England, her drink of choice is tea. A self-described “die-hard English Breakfast Tea drinker,” it was a process falling in love with flavored teas, said Stockley, but fall in love she did.
Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe features more than 50 types of tea, including the shop’s specialty “Character Teas,” which are blended in-shop by Stockley, based on various personality traits of British characters, such as Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Mr. Darcy, James Bond, Sherlock, Mary Poppins and others. Her Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’s tea reads: “Charlie would have loved this tea with white and milk chocolate pieces floating around with oranges, maple syrup and blueberries ‘in a world of pure imagination.’ ”
Stockley said it’s her attention to detail that sets her shop apart from others, along with a menu that changes every month to best highlight the season. Customers often return to get a new and exciting experience of flavors, with all bites included in the Afternoon Tea created in-house.
Fall Highlights: Every six weeks, Shakespeare Corner Shoppe hosts a British-themed tea event. “Harry Potter” will be the event for Oct. 2 with quizzes, quotes, costumes and a Hogwarts’ menu all part of the fun. Due to its popularity, the Harry Potter theme will carry on for three weeks.
Paru Tea Bar
- 3034 Cañon St.; open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tea-tasting flight $19, cup of tea (hot or iced) $4-$5, ceremonial matcha shot $6, blooming tea $12. Free tastings take place each month for customers on Paru Tea Bar’s mailing list or social media. (619) 432-2882, paruteabar.com
Paru Tea Bar is like wine-tasting for the tea-curious. Owner Amy Truong said she realized that not everyone knows what they like yet, and might be hesitant to buy a whole box of tea if there’s a chance they’re going to hate it.
“I thought the concept would be a great way to socialize, try out different teas and get to know your palette,” Truong said about beginning her business. Guests can order a flight of three teas to sample, arranged in a simple, aesthetic manner. Clean, clear settings and transparent pots and cups put the focus on the tea, Truong insisted.
Flowers, dried fruits and herbs float in hot water, boiled to the perfect temperature to brew the tea and fully bring out the flavors, but not burn the leaves. Paru Tea Bar works directly with tea farmers from around the world (Vietnam, Japan, China), hand-blending teas such as Earl Grey Lavender, Green Rose, Shibuya Mint, Golden Moon, Milk Oolong, Blue Chamomile, Chicory Coffee, Coconut Chai and more. The menu also boasts blooming teas, made with a single dry flower bud, which blooms when placed in hot water. A ceremonial matcha shot and cold brew tea are also available.
Fall Highlights: By the end of September, Paru Tea Bar will release Hojicha Crunch Chocolate Bar. Working with chocolaterie Deux Cranes, the two businesses have combined chocolate with Hojicha tea, which has a naturally mild chocolate flavor to it. The addition of toasted rice makes it “almost like an adult Krunch bar,” said Truong.
Tea and chocolate pairing tasting-events will also be available the weekend of Sept. 27. Halloween flights Oct. 26-27. Dress in costume for discount.