March 20th marked the first day of Spring, and the ever approaching Easter holiday. The words ‘Easter’ and ‘holiday’ used to bring a sigh of relief. Normally, I would be elated to know that a break is around the corner. Easter used to be the time for spontaneously booking holidays with the blanket of the overdraft, and baking with my Grandma in her retro kitchen, and the first glimpse of spring green. Yet now, we are bombarded with enough stresses to make anyone want to make a nest, and hide in it. Go and eat an Easter egg and comfort yourself now.
But, as students, we use any excuse to celebrate. As the weather is brightening up, we don’t need to dampen down. Okay, maybe going out isn’t the way forward – but you can still have fun whilst staying in. Why don’t you relieve the stress through indulging in comfort foods, mounted in a tiered tower in front of your eyes, in your own kitchen? The answer: The Easter Afternoon Tea.
The three tiers
Traditionally, an afternoon tea is comprised of a three tiered tower: a layer of sandwiches, a layer of cakes, and a layer of teacakes and scones. However, you don’t need to stick hugely to this composition – as food is the centre piece to this event, and probably to your sanity at this present time, you can really have whatever you fancy. Here are some classics for inspiration, if you’re struggling to be creative and/or all your brain power is going into those deadlines.
• Egg and cress (vegetarian)
• Roasted vegetables and hummus (vegan)
• Ham and mustard, or beef and horseradish
• Salmon and cream cheese
The art of the perfect sandwich combination for an afternoon tea is to satisfy everyone, ensuring there’s enough variety, but also that they’re light. Out with the stodge that accompanies winter and the Christmas dinner, Easter brings with it an element of freshness and life. By offering a selection of meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan options, the ‘boring’ stigmas around the sandwich melts away, along with the worry of your degree and the pressure of pleasing everyone.
• Carrot cake
• Lemon drizzle
• Coffee and walnut
Now, as we ascend the tower, things get sweeter and sweeter. In general, cakes and desserts are the sugar kick that makes the tensest person feel better. Yet, it’s best to go for fluffy, airy, spongey cake as we get closer to the heavier scone layer. Flavours such as carrot and lemon are key to the seasonal feel of this particular tea party, whilst coffee and walnut are a perfect marriage with a warming beverage. Still, this isn’t to say that you can’t go more adventurous and introduce shortbread, biscuits, or cookies to dunk in your tea instead!
Scones and teacakes
• Hot cross buns
• Classic, fruit, or cheese scones
• Earl Grey teacakes
Grab the cream. Grab the jam. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. Any form of scone is a classic at this stage, and they’re super rewarding in satisfying the stomach and giving a smile. Homemade scones are the dream; still warm and slightly misshapen in appearance, baking is a therapeutic activity for all the flat to enjoy, as well as their consumption. Again, you can please everyone by going plain, fruity, or more savoury, keeping up with the seasonal positivity.
It’s not really Easter without hot cross buns, and they’re extremely simple to make. Right out the oven, with a splash of butter or spread alternative, and then feel it crumble and melt in your mouth. A way to reminisce about Easters back home with your parents, caring only about how many eggs you got that year.
But we don’t have to go fully traditional. If you want to showcase your hosting and win star baker among your flatmates, try doing an infused tea-cake. Earl Grey infusion is a personal favourite, but you can try any flavour that you feel will be the best chick of the coup – and be creative! With all the restrictions the coming months are going to impose, you might as well think outside the box.
Whilst food is at the forefront of our minds at this point, we can’t forget its key partner – the drinks. It’s a tea party, an afternoon tea. It can’t be ignored. However, there’s an array of beverages that can enjoyed here rather than your usual instant coffee or PG Tips. Here’s some thoughts, if you want to try something to flow with the season…
My housemates are massive tea-drinkers. Asking for a cuppa is not as simple as ‘do you want milk and sugar?’, but variety, loose leaf, what kind of milk… the list goes on. However, if you want a suggestion for some amazingly fragrant and quality tea, then my first suggestion would be the T2 range.
If any of you go to Artigiano as much as I do, you’ll know what I mean. A brand of both bagged and loose leaf tea, T2 offer quality and flavour in abundance. From your breakfast and earl grey to fruit teas ranging from ‘Strawberries and Cream’, ‘Packs a Peach’ and ‘Turkish Apple’, you really would be spoiling yourself, and making this a real occasion of celebration. Just search them into Google, and have a browse yourself. Personal fave – ‘Toasty Nougat’.
On the other hand, coffee is the fuel for most of us. Students drink a lot of it; it’s the nectar of productivity. Nonetheless, why don’t you try something that you don’t associate with the working slog, but relaxing and appreciating good coffee with your nearest and dearest?
Whittards is always a good shout; same goes for their hot chocolate range. Their flavoured ground coffee is of a high standard, and can be found on Exeter’s very own high street.
However, a little gem that I got introduced to through my sister’s blog (Hev with a Bev – check it out), is a company called Pact. For those who like to work their caffetieres, Pact do amazing coffee, and in some flavours which really compliment the Eastery feel – such as Peaches and Cream. It’s also extremely affordable. I got some Dark Chocolate Truffle and Cherry ground coffee for about £6-£7 at the beginning of the year that I’m still making my way through. Have a look; have a try.
We all know that one person who isn’t a fan of hot drinks. Crazy, I know. We don’t have to completely exclude them, though. Fruit juices and flavours such as elderflower and raspberry cordials make tasty alternatives. Get some lemonade, ice, lemon and limes in, and you could be adventurous and make some form of Easter Mocktail – unless you want to drink in the afternoon… Maybe splash out on some San Pellegrino rather than Tesco’s own, and add the sophisticated flair that we’re all secretly craving.