Check yourself: what you know as "tea time" is more than just a cup of Earl Grey, it's actually a full meal. Chef Asha Gomez is presenting an Indian twist on high tea service, offering a generous portion of her flavorful signature dishes and, you guessed it, plenty of Spice to Table's housemade chai.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "tea time"? Wait, we can probably guess: two old British ladies (someone along the lines of Queen Elizabeth
and/or Hyacinth Bucket
) in floral dresses and modest church hats, seated around a table with a white doily tablecloth, sipping warm Earl Grey from dainty porcelain cups
with pinkies properly up. Oh, and throw in Jeeves asking, "One lump or two?" somewhere in that scenario. Well, our fellow Americans, you would actually be incorrect. Or rather, you would be partially correct. Long before Taco Bell tried to popularize the post-midnight Fourth Meal, tea time (also known as high tea) was the fourth meal of the day that occurred between lunch and dinner around 5 or 6 p.m. For the UK's aristocratic classes, it typically wasn't a heavy meal, but consisted of a sharing of small plates, finger foods, and juicy gossip. Oh yes, it was a time to drink and to dish: high tea was a daily social event. For the working classes who were often returning home from factories and farms around tea time, their dinner and tea time were merged into a single evening meal. Tea was still expensive at this time and they couldn't afford to use it simply for sitting around and socializing and, no joke, after a full day of laborious work, one tends to be pretty hungry when 6 p.m. rolls around.
We're also going to ask you to take everything you know about chai and throw it out the window, too. Yep, when we say "chai" we don't mean Oprah's favorite drink, that sweet brown nectar that seems to endlessly flow from stainless steel pumps behind the Starbucks counter. Traditional chai is simply a black tea that's been flavored with an assortment of palate-pleasing Indian spices: ginger, cloves, and cardamom. It's a little more exotic and a little more exciting. It can be served in latte form as we know it, mixed with warm milk, but it's also served iced, either with or without milk.
Now take all of your new knowledge and prepare yourself for High Chai, a tea time service prepared by Asha Gomez. After starting your high tea with a light and refreshing gin cocktail, you'll be treated to over 15 dishes of fresh, seasonal plates from Spice to Table's kitchen. The first rotation of eats will be a variety of light snacks, such as stewed pears and Indian-style finger sandwiches to munch on as you enjoy conversation with your fellow tea time imbibers: remember, 'tis the time for socializing. Following the first round of smaller bites, you'll be treated to some more substantial offerings, such as lemongrass trout, savory pies, and butternut squash prepared with creamed coconut. And dessert! Yes, there will all types of sweet confections on hand, such as cakes and cookies. It may be a little déclassé, but we won't tell if you feel like dunking aforementioned cookies into your warm, creamy chai.
Which brings us to Asha's housemade chai. While you may have been sustaining your chai lust with something pleasant whipped up by your favorite local barista, it's probably nowhere near as tasty as Asha's own chai concoction (sorry, Oprah). She begins with a black assam tea and infuses her blend with cardamom, clove and pinch of black pepper for a flavor experience that's marked with scintillating spices. How do you take yours? At High Chai, Asha will be serving a warm cup of creamy chai that's been prepared with milk, or you can go the ol' Southern route and enjoy an iced blend sans milk that's garnished with florals and seasonal berries. While you can fill up on the good stuff to your heart/stomach's content (did we mention the chai is bottomless?), you don't need to overdo it: Asha will also treat you to a recipe and pro-tips on how to brew your own chai with ingredients that are easily found at your neighborhood grocer.
Throughout the meal, you can expect plenty of conversation from Asha. She'll share notes on the history of high tea and its social significance, along with plenty of details on the creation and evolution of chai tea. The experience looks to be just as educational as it is delicious: it's high tea with an Indian twist.