Our afternoon teas have been on the rise over the past couple of years, full of creamy cakes, marvellous macarons and scrumptious scones. Some are traditional, in that they are served with loose leaf tea; green, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, chamomile, red berry, or breakfast tea. Others add a cheeky glass of Prosecco, just because… and others still, have a tea that buds and flowers in your glass before your very eyes; David Copperfield eat your heart out.
To take you through the whole experience, the food is served along with a refreshing pot of tea. Then, out of the scullery in the depths of The Grove, where magic happens, come the steaming glasses with what resembles a natural pod of tightly formed leaves floating on the top. This dried sprout-like ball remains on top of the water for as your bemused face comes closer and closer to the glass to see what it actually is, then, without warning, it sinks to the bottom. The anticipation is audible as you wait sometimes a few seconds, sometimes as long as a minute, before a steady stream of bubbles make their way to the surface. The water starts to take on a light green tint, more bubbles, and then the ball slowly starts to change. At this point it is actually impossible to resist the urge to put one’s nose over the glass and take in the scented aroma erupting from the glass. Then it happens. The tightly folded leaves of the jasmine pod start to unfurl, a long stamen-like (thinking about it, it probably is actually the stamen) shoots up to the surface of the water in glorious slow motion. So transfixed are our guests that many a conversation has frozen in mid-flow; the fascinating details of the mother-in-law’s dodgy leg now no longer relevant, having slipped totally out of mind; sentences are unfinished, themes forgotten and questions paused. It is at this point that if you don’t watch out, one of our Front of House staff may well pinch a whole scone, butter it, add jam and cream, sit alongside you and eat in before your very eyes, unnoticed. The large petals of the jasmine flower then open with a continuous, yet somewhat jerky motion, and just keep on going, like the layers of an artichoke or onion, they seem to be never ending.
This whole process takes about three minutes, which is, thankfully not quite enough time for your Earl Grey to go cold. The flowering jasmine tea, itself, is fragrant and refreshing, and for sheer entertainment value it is money well worth spending, especially if you are struggling to find a conversation. Who cares about the mother-in-law’s leg?