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Artists Fiona Jappy
Photo credit: Courtesy of the artist

Hello English language learners,

Just before Christmas, Kenny and I managed to sneak off to the Roman Camp Hotel, Callander for a luxury afternoon tea.

High Tea is quite a British concept, in this blog discover what it is, and why it features on our English language school food and drink menu!

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An Introduction to High Tea

BuzzFeedVideo explores the topic of Afternoon Tea | Youtube

Be warned, this video contains a whole lot of cake-eating. 

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Learn English and British Culture | High Tea – the History

For those who don’t know, ‘High Tea’ is very British, and a relatively formal affair.

Traditionally, it was a fairly simple selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes served mid-afternoon in large ancestral houses.

The kind of mansion houses with servants (now mostly National Trust properties), which were big enough for the various family/guests to disperse for the day across the vast grounds on various outdoor activities (hunting, walking, riding, gardening, fishing, painting).

 

The household would reconvene mid-afternoon, warming themselves in front of a fire and reviving themselves with a selection of hot teas and cold snacks that the maids had laid out for them, presumably sharing aspects of their leisurely day, while fitting in a spot of food as they waited for the slightly more interesting cocktail hour. After which they would change into something less comfortable to tackle all the formalities of an evening meal.

 

A hard life, I’m sure you would agree. (And one only familiar to me from being a huge P.G. Wodehouse fan). 
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Visit Perthshire Drovers Tryst

High Tea at the Roman Camp Hotel
Photo credit: Blue Noun

High Tea | Treat Yourself!

 

This extra meal, known as High Tea or Afternoon Tea, is something that a few grand hotels across Scotland now specialise in.

 

Such hotels open their doors for non-guests to sample the good life in the form of a luxury afternoon combining silver-service waiting staff, copious pots of tea and a parade of small and plentiful tempting treats.

 

It’s all at less expense and entails (on the part of the guests at least) less formality than a full evening meal would at such a top establishment.

 

What do you wear to High Tea?

What ever you like!


In Scotland, High Tea isn’t necessarily a dress up occasion – unless you want to.

The Roman Camp assured me on the phone that it was ok to come to their afternoon tea in walking boots – as we were planning a hike first (to build up good appetite), but in the end, it was a rainy day and we chose to be lazy.

Many of Scotland’s oldest and nicest hotels are in outdoor sports locations and you’ll be surprised how many muddy guests or (sea soaked guests) wander in to quite fancy locations.

 

Visit Perthshire Drovers Tryst

Ruth enjoying High Tea at the Roman Camp Hotel
Photo credit: Blue Noun

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So How Was High Tea?

To be entirely honest, the High Tea is a culture that neither of Kenny and I are used to, and while many people in our circumstances seem to get a kick out of jumping class for an afternoon, neither of us were completely convinced by the elements of performance it entailed.

It felt strange being waited on so attentively and I’m just not used to sitting about not working in the afternoon! 

When being done as tradition dictates, high tea itself is a bit of an odd blend of sparseness, simplicity and excess – with possibly the worst aspects of British food being unconvincingly elevated when combined with silver service, the hotel’s luxury surroundings and the sheer quantity of food.

High Tea should feel like a luxuriously indulgent treat, but in reality it felt rather wasteful (is it just me that doesn’t want to eat so many cakes and scones in one meal?
That’s a whole week’s worth of puddings!!)
Crieffs Cowches Artist Katy Galbraith

Kenny all scrubbed up for High Tea at the Roman Camp Hotel
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Get Over Your Scottish Thriftiness! How was the food?

To begin with, we give the Roman Camp a bit of homework, as I eat gluten-free, and Kenny and I are both vegetarian. We’d phoned ahead and they coped superbly with both requirements – I was particularly delighted by my fresh GF scone!

 

The truffle and parmesan taster we had to start was divine: it set my hopes and expectations sky high! Such layers of flavour, such mysteries … what a dream! (Give me another, and a crisp glass of white wine to complement it!).
 
While the rest was of the tea that followed it was all good enough quality, it fell a bit flat after such an amazing start.
 
I wanted to cry out, ‘free the chef!,’ and ‘Why waste skill like that on sandwiches?’

 

“I wanted to cry out, ‘free the chef!’

and

Why waste skill like that on sandwiches?”

Ruth, 2019

Meet the Makers | Learn English with Baking sandwich icon
Crieffs Cowches Artist Katy Galbraith

Strathearn Cheese
Photo Credit: Blue Noun

Our region has so much beautiful local produce, a High Tea not showcasing it is a wasted opportunity.

English Language School Food and Drink

Scotland produces such amazing cheeses and local produce, and while a traditional high tea, cramped by its own pretensions can absorb them as quality ingredients, it doesn’t really show them off unfettered.

 

I guess the high tea experience as a whole is more about sampling an unchanging, old-fashioned, decadent lifestyle for a day – and it is still loved exactly because it doesn’t change much.

 

However, if (like me) you are all about learning something new about the food you eat, as you eat it then it is probably worth saving (much) harder and getting let loose in the evening restaurant – for that first mouthful told me that there’s a chef in there who’ll rock your world, and I’d pick unknown (and potentially sublime) over the weight of traditional any day.

 

And for our guests, we choose a language school food and drink experience for our English learning guests and promote tasty ingredients over outdated ‘British’ tradition any day. 
 
Scottish food culture is cosmopolitan, based on friendly old fashioned hospitality. 

I was glad that the restaurant experience felt less stuffy than I was expecting but I don’t think High Tea is part of the Scottish Culture I feel excited about showing off. 

A Charming Time of Year

It was dark by the time we left, and the lights in the dining room (all set up for that evening’s meal) shone out into the wet night.
 
The Roman Camp Hotel has an old-world charm and other-worldliness that merits a visit.

The High Tea is a pleasant adventure, but the restaurant promises to be very special indeed.
Visit Perthshire Drovers Tryst

The Roman Camp Hotel by night
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Language School Food and Drink |  Further Reading

Visit the Roman Camp Hotel website here.


Want to know more about our Language School food and drink philosophy? Read:

 

Language School Event | Burns Night | The Traditions We Broke – and Why?

 
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A quick note from the author

We began the Blue Noun blog back in 2019, when we called ourselves a ‘language school’ (we now call ourselves a language hub) and we were building up our business completely from scratch.

Our first few months were spent making friends in the community, researching homestay hosts for our language guests and finding out about all the good local places and activities to take our language learning guests.

In 2021 we moved the Blue Noun website to a different platform. We had the option of deleting these old blogs – they are very different form our current, more pedagogic style of posting, but I think they are quite charming to see how our young business grew, turning from a language school run by an artist – into a language hub which really began to focus on coaching artists in English by immersing them in creative environments.