High Tea at Fortnum and Mason, London

St. James's Restaurant at Fortnum and Mason ©Fortnum and Mason

St. James’s Restaurant at Fortnum and Mason ©Fortnum and Mason

When I arrived at Fortnum and Mason, it was after sundown and the right time for High Tea. High Tea is served later in the day and is a more substantial meal than the lighter fare that is commonly associated with afternoon tea.  After entering through F&M’s oak doors on Piccadilly, I took the lift up to the 4th Floor St. James’s, a full service restaurant that serves meals and teas of all kinds. The restaurant is light, airy, has a quiet ambiance, tables set a good distance apart, live piano music, and for a lucky few, tables next to the windows overlooking Piccadilly below.  Even though I requested one, they were all reserved for a function later that evening.

After opening on this spot in 1707 as a small grocery shop, Fortnum and Mason have been doing business at 181 Piccadilly for over 300 years.  They have a long history of dealing in exotic imported foods and other fine goods, including full leaf teas of all kinds, and have earned numerous Royal Warrants. From the beginning, Fortnum and Mason have sold tea to anyone who asked, a novel idea in the 1700’s when tea drinking was limited mostly to the aristocracy. Continue reading

What Is Clotted Cream?

Tea time, with scones, clotted cream and jam

Tea time, with scones, clotted cream and jam

First of all, it’s clotted, not whipped.  Secondly, it’s a rich and creamy dairy product that most people associate with England, but is now available widely around the world.  Thirdly, it’s a luxury item that is usually spread on scones, desserts and fresh fruit, especially at afternoon tea taken in the English tradition.

Clotted cream is made by pouring fresh milk into a pan and then letting it sit for several hours, allowing the cream to rise to the top.  Then it’s simmered over low heat until clots form on the surface, trapping the cream inside. The clots are then skimmed off to make clotted cream.  The signature golden hue comes from the butterfat content in the whole milk.

Some sources claim clotted cream first originated as early as 16th century England, while others indicate the 19th century.  In any case, it seems clear that it arose as a method for preserving excess milk supplies, at least for a few extra days. Since that time, the process for making it has barely changed. Continue reading