Is Grand High Tea an idea whose time has come? “Maybe so”, say’s Sharon Welch-Blair of The Empress of Little Rock, known as the “Downtown Abbey” in Little Rock, Arkansas, for it’s keeping of elegant traditions of more than 100 years ago. “We started serving “Grand High” Tea as a way to fill an otherwise slow day since most guests check out on Sundays after staying the weekend. Little did we realize we might be filing a void in the lives of our guests”.
Grand High Tea seems to have caught on as a way to share a special time and unique experience with loved ones and friends, when everything else seems to take people away from simply enjoying the company of another. It also allows people to share some long forgotten traditions of a bygone day. “I think these rituals and traditions give us a connection to our past in a way that we long for,” adds Welch-Blair.
So just exactly what is “Grand High Tea”? “It’s an ‘Americanized” version of the British tradition of serving a tiny meal in the middle of the afternoon to tide one over to dinner time”, says Welch-Blair. “It wasn’t unusual for dinner to be served much later in the day a century ago, and Queen Victoria made it popular when she began to invite friends to her apartments to share her “little tea party”.”
As is often the case, American’s have somewhat hijacked the idea and made it their own. Grand High Tea is “an occasion” to dress up, steal away, bring your daughter or special someone and call it “grande” by getting out grandma’s silver, crystal, and china and adding a little “pomp and circumstance”, with some special traditions here and there. “ The English would be thumbing their noses at our ignorance right now, since “high” tea really was originally an evening meal among the working class”. But it’s a tradition for American’s to hybridize good ideas and make them their own. After all, didn’t we take the idea of the British Parliment, a bicameral legislature, and hybridize to our House of Representatives (the people) and the Senate (representing States). While some would argue whether that works today or not, it has certainly served us well for the last 200 years.
So if you have a yen for some old fashioned 19th century hospitality, an excuse to ban the electronics, and actually connect with someone special while be “fussed over” by aproned maids serving specialty tea (definitely not Earl Grey) and scones with all the trimmings, Grand High Tea at The Empress of Little Rock just might be your spot on a Sunday afternoon, and maybe start some new traditions of your own!
Happy Mother’s Day!!