Dainty does it - indulge in high tea

High tea starts with good china and leaf tea.
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High tea starts with good china and leaf tea.

Is there anything better than sipping tea from fine china and nibbling on dainty little savouries or scones with cream? Abbie Napier finds out more about high tea in Canterbury. 

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High tea is once again in vogue but standards are up. Stock standard mini pies and batches of lamingtons just aren't going to cut it this time around. 

Sally Sergeant hosts high tea at Pink Sugar
Carys Monteath

Sally Sergeant hosts high tea at Pink Sugar

Customers are demanding the best of the best, which is perhaps a reflection of higher standards across hospitality in Canterbury. 

Cafes and restaurants across the city are offering a high tea service on weekends, and speciality tea houses are back on trend. Whether it's settling in for Devonshire tea with scones and all the trimmings, or going all out for a multi-tiered afternoon extravaganza, it's all about the delicate and the dainty. 

Everyone does it slightly differently, and there's something for every tea enthusiast in the region. 

A fancy tea pot is essential.
Carys Monteath

A fancy tea pot is essential.

Pretty in pink

Sally Sergeant was always disappointed by high tea. A true tea connoisseur, she often found the much-anticipated high tea experience fell short of expectations. 

She wanted fancy, dainty and delicate and she wanted it done properly. 

Penelope Hester makes everything your grandmother used to make.
Kaituna Homestead

Penelope Hester makes everything your grandmother used to make.

Just over a year ago, she finally decided there's only one way to do something right, and it's to do it yourself. Pink Sugar is now open in Oxford and business is booming. 

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"I've always liked everything gorgeous and lovely, and I've never found the perfect place to take tea," she says, from behind the fluff of a pink dress and vintage apron. 

"I like creating something beautiful."

Tea and scones is a classic.
Kaituna Homestead

Tea and scones is a classic.

The inside of the little cafe is decked out head to toe in blush pinks and baby blues. Rows and rows of pretty teapots line the shelves and an ornate silver cash register hums and dings on the counter. 

Pink Sugar does high tea right. 

True to form in post-quake Christchurch, customer expectations of quality are up. High tea is no exception. 

Sally's team makes everything on site and presents it all beautifully. She even imports a high end tea brand Whittard of Chelsea from the United Kingdom. 

Customers can order anything from Devonshire Tea (scones and tea) to a Blokes High Tea, which cranks up the savouries for the man with an appetite. 

The Pink Sugar scones are made with the old cream and lemonade recipe and are served with caramel butter, cream and jam. 

"High tea is very popular," Sally says. "It's definitely come back into fashion."

The balancing act

The Tea House in Lincoln draws a lovely balance between a modern experience and a heritage feel. 

The 1890s villa has been decked out with glamorous wallpapers and plush velvet seating. They use vintage china and white tablecloths, but the whole experience has a more modern feel with all the best things from the past. 

Owner Vanetia Bingham has been running The Tea House for almost four years and says her weekend day time business is all about high tea. 

They also make everything on site. 

Vanetia set up the restaurant post-quake as a way to enjoy a break from everyday life. It has evolved over the years but the experience is still focused around a mini-escape from the here and now. 

A Modern Twist

Where Pink Sugar has gone floral and lace, the Quality Hotel Elms on Papanui Rd is offering high tea with a difference on Sunday afternoons. 

Chef Stefan Freuding creates a long table buffet of sweets and savouries, cakes and sandwiches for guests to help themselves. The tables have starched linen, but not a gilded edge or pastel flourish in sight. 

For $35 per person, guests can eat as much as they like and sip Dilmah tea from modern cups rather than bone china. 

Bar manager Simon Zhong whips up tea cocktails for those after a mid-afternoon tipple with their scones and jam. Each cocktail has a Dilmah tea base, steeped and chilled, with liquor and syrups to bring out the tea. 

Going all out

Sometimes a little just isn't quite enough. High tea at Kaituna Homestead on Banks Peninsula is all about indulgence and exclusivity. 

Owner Penelope Hester takes two days to prepare a full high tea experience for $75 per person. She does only three a week in the busy season but it's a full affair for guests. The homestead lawn is open for croquet and sandwiches, followed by wave after wave of homemade delicacies - things your grandmother used to make. Every experience is special and tailored for the party booked. 

Penelope prides herself on delivering something special and memorable, and takes immense care with getting everything just so. 

"It really is an occasion," she says. "I keep it terribly exclusive." 

Kaituna high tea is a true escape. 

High tea cocktail

* Simon Zhong's Rosehip Mar-tea-ni

Makes 2

Brew 250mL of Dilmah Rosehip and Hibiscus using two teaspoons of leaf tea. Steep for five minutes before straining and chilling. In a cocktail shaker, pour 60mL of Triple Sec and 30mL of elderflower liqueur over ice. Add the cold tea and shake. Rim the martini glasses with caster sugar. Pour into glasses using cocktail strainer. Garnish with an orange peel twist. 

 - Stuff

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