Can we drop the “high tea is so amazing” propaganda already? It’s not. Sure it looks beautiful, but that’s about it.
This post comes long after having high tea with a few food friends at The Living Room in The Peninsula in Beverly Hills. Prior to arriving, I asked a few friends their opinion of high tea. They all had nothing but good things to say which ranged from loving the unique dining experience to praising the lush food. With that, I was excited. Fast-forward to the end of the meal and my friends thought it was such a grand experience, while I looked at my receipt and thought I was ripped off.
“I could have bought a small country for the amount I dropped on tea.”
Granted, The Peninsula is gorgeous, aristocratic, and lavish but refer to the latter part of the third sentence: that’s about it. Everything my friends said was wrong. High tea is ridiculously overpriced, has no experience, is horrible for photography and then eating, and makes you think you’ll eat with the Queen of England when you won’t. While I loved hanging with my friends, I’m going to say what no one else says: I fucking hate high tea.
Let me explain.
I’m more poor than rich so when it comes to money, I try to spend it wisely. Some people spend money on gadgets, strippers, or clothes while I spend money on food. That being said, when I saw The Imperial Tea ($95 including tip) on the menu, I thought it was overpriced, but I hoped it would be a lot of food for the price. Silly me. The Imperial Tea includes a tea selection, caviar canapé and a glass of fancy high label champagne that 90% of people can’t pronounce. We all pretty much ordered the same thing, so when the beautiful tower came out I thought it was funny there wasn’t one for each of us. For six people, there were three towers. Wait, so I’m sharing this with someone?
What kind of fuckery is this?
I get it; high tea is a tradition dating back to the 18th century. It’s also cute because some old lady in a castle in London eats little savories, but the portion control for high tea is insane. There are at most 10 sandwiches, macrons, and cakes per tower for two people. That’s the equivalent to a sandwich and a mini cupcake. I eat that as a snack after the gym and here you expect me to split that with a friend. Um, I’m not a doctor but I’m going to diagnose you as psychotic.
I get bigger portions of bread and wine on Communion Sunday for free than I did for $95 at high tea. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but that’s how it feels. To be honest, I could only imagine Jesus (the man who fed thousands with five loaves and two fish) would look at these portions, scratch His head, and say, “I can’t do it, guys.”
I’m all about experiential dinners, but let’s keep it real: there is no experience to high tea.
Maybe if I were zip lining from the parking lot to my seat or a quartet sang while I ate then I could vouch for that idea, but there isn’t anything even near that. You simply sit in a gorgeous restaurant, sip tea, eat finger sandwiches, and throw your head back as you laugh at a lady-like decibel. Dressing up in a floral dress and a foofy hat doesn’t count either. I get that wearing cute clothes to sit in a garden patio is posh, but it’s not an experience. Call it what it is, it’s looking cute for Instagram or optimism that a hot guy will be at the restaurant and take notice of you. Add to that, wearing a pair of white gloves to hold the handle of a porcelain cup doesn’t make me feel fancy—it makes me feel like I’m about to clean a crime scene. And with as many reruns of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation replaying on a daily basis, I’m not paying $95 to play the part even if it comes with tiny cakes.
No seriously, it does.
Initially it’s a fabulous idea because you’re going to photograph beautiful dishes. You and your three or more friends (because no one does high tea alone) will go through a process like you do at any other restaurant. You take the food and you stage it, photograph it, adjust it, plate it, photograph it, adjust it, photograph it, and repeat it all at least five times between yourselves.
That’s fine; I’m all for doing whatever it takes to get the perfect shot, especially since that’s how I work. The problem comes 10 to 15 minutes later when you all sit down to eat.
You pick up a biscuit, maybe it’s a croissant–who cares you’re hungry– and you grab the knife with butter to smear it. “Wait, is this butter or a block of cheese?” No idea, but it’s clearly a rock now.
If you’re photographing high tea, the food and tea will get hard, dry, and cold in a matter of minutes. I repeat: minutes. That once lovely setup will look like prop food that sits in a glass case at your local coffee shop. Sure you can ask for more food, but I’m not paying for it. The only solution to salvage any part of the meal is adding more hot water to your teacup. “Oh I can’t get a new teabag?” Silly me. Why would I ever want a fresh teabag, right? Just keep diluting the same tired bag, that’ll definitely enhance the flavor.
Or the queen of anything for that matter.
When I saw the description for the meal, it looked like tea and crumpets. Cool, I like both of those things moderately. When I saw the price of said meal I figured it also meant the Queen was coming out to join us.
She never did. Ever.
For some reason, restaurants that serve high tea at an exaggerated price think that it’s ok to send out warm water and crust-less sandwiches with a regular city-waitress. Uh, rewind that please. Send that shit back and have little Ms. Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton, or even Pippa bring it out and hobnob with me.
For a $95 meal that I have to share, she and I better be cracking jokes over Earl Grey and leave as besties.
I’m not sure if I’ve expressed myself as best as possible, but in the instance that I didn’t allow me to say that I really hate high tea. It’s overpriced, void of an experience, the food gets cold quickly, and Queen Elizabeth never shows up. Luckily, I went with wonderful friends that made the aforementioned tolerable to a point. That aside, there is one instance where I will voluntarily partake in high tea again. Should you (yes, you) opt to drive, buy, tip, the tea and baby biscuits are all you can eat, and I can wear pajamas, then I’m down.
If not, then I hate the shit out of high tea and don’t ever ask me to go.
- Food tastes great
- Friendly staff
- Nice decor
- Small portions