There is just something special about an traditional English tea. Everyone has tried to imitate it , but in my mind it's never been duplicated with the exception of the afternoon tea on Bergdorfs 7th floor which occasionally and with the right companion can come pretty close. Don't get me wrong, there are many lovely tea rooms here in America and I enjoy them all but there's a regality about a proper British tea that I thoroughly enjoy as well as a touch of whimsy which is allowable because tea is so entrenched in their culture that it's just understood and not worried about. British children have their own tea services for goodness sakes and It's a wonderful thing! More importantly and because the Brits are fairly addicted to sugar the sweets found at their High Teas are legendary and the savories are the perfect accompaniments.
But in my world it was all about the sweets. You haven't lived until you've tasted a real British scone, with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, all buttery and warm I might add. You just haven't and I've never met an American scone that could come close. It's a bit like a southern biscuit…you must use Crisco or forget it. British scones are filled with butter…lots of butter and white flour. Some things should truly just never be tampered with. Just eat one and then jump back onto the healthy band-wagon. For the majority of us, one won't hurt you and the reward is a rich and relaxing afternoon!
Tea has been a part of my world since I was a very young child. I've talked many times about my own mothers penchant for afternoon tea; raised by a very Patrician mother of her own she continued to believe until the day she died that it was the only civilized meal left to be eaten in the western world. As a result of this passion when she died I inherited several pretty fabulous tea sets and was left with decades of wonderful memories. My father was a coffee drinker so she didn't really get to enjoy afternoon tea unless she was traveling with me. My mother and I enjoyed tea all around England, Scotland and Ireland and those images are engraved in my mind and heart forever. So are the smells and the perfect tea services! I learned to love coddled eggs because of breakfast teas , egg and radish sandwiches, Scottish salmon croquettes and refreshing fruit soups!
Because we were in the porcelain business we had appointments to visit every wonderful factory and in those days they always had a beautiful high tea prepared for us when we arrived. I’ll never forget the high tea at the Royal Worcester / Spode factory , where the whole thing was served on a set of Duke of Gloucester, with British sterling and Stuart Crystal…I felt like a Princess. I still remember that because because that was the first time that I ever enjoyed a buttered roast beef and watercress tea sandwich which is an absolute thing of beauty. I've even been lucky enough to have gotten the chance to enjoy many a cucumber sandwich and later in life a few martinis with Lord Wedgwood, a most charming gentleman who definitely knows his teas. More recently my nephew Michael is spending a year or two in Oxford in a masters program, and he keeps posting all of these lovely pictures of tea that he’s enjoying on a spring holiday that he’s taking through the English countryside with his darling girlfriend Molly, placing afternoon tea in the forefront of my mind once again.
So it came as no surprise to me yesterday when I was walking through Saks Fifth Avenue that my eye was drawn to the uncharacteristically vibrant display at the Jo Malone counter. I walked over and took a look at the display of 5 little bottles with sugar spun pastel labels displayed with a covered glass cake plate filled with sweets named most appropriately “The Sugar and Spice Collection”. I rolled my eyes and then the really sweet SA came over to talk to me and convinced me to take a closer look. I’m not really one for foodie scents, but I’ve got to admit I was almost immediately smitten. I don’t know if it was the perfumes themselves or just the whole presentation, but as I sprayed them I became very happy, in a distinctly childlike way. By the time I was done I was wearing them all and they blended together beautifully like an elegantly set tea table amidst a blowzy English herbaceous border. All that was missing was the perfect hat, cartwheeling children and a couple of large lovely dogs! I brought them home to my husband to see if it was just a product of my overly vivid imagination , but he loved them and said that I smelled like a perfect country day. Enough said!
Here are the descriptions of each of these pretty perfumes straight from the Jo Malone site.
“Just-baked biscuit. Spiced with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, melting into caramel. Butter-crumbly with roasted hazelnuts. Warmed by tonka bean and vanilla. Irresistible”
“The mouth-watering tang of lemon tart. Sparkling with citrus fruits and verbena, contrasted with swirls of meringue and lemon thyme. Refreshing.”
Red Currant and Cream
“A summer pudding. Sharp-scarlet juices of red currants, lush strawberries and raspberries, rippling through creamy musk. Vivacious and enticing.”
Elderflower and Gooseberry
“A voluptuous gooseberry fool. Crushed, summer-green gooseberries, juicy with lychee, enfolded into the soft delicacy of elderflower. Tender and feminine.”
Bitter Orange and Chocolate
“The bite of bitter orange, layered with dark chocolate. Orange peel counterpoised with warm, powdery cocoa, milky coconut and coumarin. Sumptuous and addictive.”
They are all wonderful and I’d love to give a whole set not just to a granddaughter but to myself. I adore the Bitter Chocolate on it’s own and find the elderflower and Gooseberry to be something that I’d enjoy wearing all spring long. I must admit that until I smelled this collection the genre of sugary fruity gourmand perfumes had escaped me almost entirely, but there’s something about these playful Jo Malone’s that’s absolutely delightful and makes the possibility of smelling like a warm ginger biscuit seem sophisticated and very romantic. They’re only available through March so you don’t have much more time and priced at 60.00 a bottle they’re easy to succumb to. Take your inner child to tea (or at least a precocious niece or nephew!) and try them all!
Photo Credits on each picture ~ this was originally posted on my favorite Perfume blog ~ Perfume Smellin Things