The Best Tea To Drink For Afternoon High Tea

Kicking up your feet with a piping hot cup of your favorite tea can be one of the most relaxing times of the day. Brewing and serving tea the right way and observing all the proper decorum it demands is nothing short of an art form across the pond. To the British, afternoon tea is basically a sacred form of "me time" and is typically enjoyed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Snacks and good company are always required. If you've never participated in a formal tea session like this before, you're in for a real treat, and you'll be living out your fancy tea party dreams with every sip.

Not sure which tea to drink for this occasion? With over 3,000 varieties of tea out there to choose from, it can certainly be more than a little overwhelming to decide. Naturally, head pastry chef at London's Milestone Hotel, Chloe Hemery, knows a thing or two about the best aromatic teas that pair well with the sweet and savory goodies gracing your palette during afternoon high tea. Her favorite tea to drink with finger sandwiches is Assam Second Flush, a black tea harvested in one of the most famous tea regions in India, as she told Food & Wine. To go with luscious pastries and treats, she prefers Darjeeling First Flush, which is considered by many tea aficionados to be the "champagne" of teas. What is it about the flavor of these teas, specifically, that make them a great choice for tea time?

One is malty and heavy, while the other is delicately floral

The Assam black tea that Hemery loves sipping at afternoon tea is a second flush, meaning it's harvested during the summer months of June and July. This time frame exposes the growing tea leaves to lots of sunlight, which gives the tea a bold flavor with sweet notes. To get its malty flavors to come through, it's best to brew Assam tea for three to five minutes. 

If your tea time spread consists mostly of sweet desserts, consider brewing Hemery's other recommended flavor, the Darjeeling First Flush. Harvested in India in the spring and packed with nutrients, this first flush tea is an expensive and sought-after variety that has floral and earthy flavors.

Maybe you love to drink black tea every day, or perhaps you're a newcomer to the detailed and complex world of tea drinking. Either way, if you want to give hosting your own afternoon tea gathering with friends a go, there are just a few things you need to complete the experience. Besides the obvious teapot, cups, milk, and sugar, you can also include sweeter wines like rosé to drink once the tea's all been guzzled. The most traditional approach to snacking at afternoon tea includes dainty finger sandwiches, scones with fruity jam or clotted cream, and French pastries as the last course. Enjoy the experience with the cozy vibes of a book club or a meeting among chatty hobbyists, and it sounds like a pretty dreamy way to pass the time.