The High Tea Tradition

The tradition of high tea is thriving in Australia, depsite our addiction to coffee on the run. Find out more about the history of high tea and enjoy some great recipes!

Thoughts of high tea usually conjures up scones with cream and jam, sandwiches with crusts removed, dainty china and sitting down for a bit of gossip. In reality, most of us resort to a mid-afternoon cappuccino on the run with our mobile phones welded to our ears.

But the recent Dilmah Inaugural Consumer High Tea Challenge nationwide finals have revealed an updated love for the tradition with multicultural flavours nudging scones aside.

Hundreds of professional and amateur cooks produced high tea recipes incorporating the venerable tea company's products. The amateur winners produced friands, an updated curried-egg creation, a mocktail and tea and orange baklava.

Dilmah founder, Merrill J Fernando said he and his sons and first explored tea gastronomy in 1999, "knowing that tea offers a wonderful ingredient or accompaniment for fine food". It is very special to me, after a lifetime devoted to tea, to see such willingness by Australian consumers to experiment and invent so many incredible recipes with this beverage."

The joint national amateur winners, Sandy and JD Wingrove of Sydney and Alison Battersby of Adelaide, won a trip to Sri Lanka, including visits to the Dilmah Tea Gardens and a holiday at Ceylon Tea Trails. Battersby's Sri Lankan husband was the motivation for her to enter the competition.

"He was adopted as a child when he was three weeks old and has never seen his homeland. For me the feelings of relaxation, warmth, comfort and that time out that you get from drinking tea are what inspired me to put the tea back into high tea," she said.

The elderly Wingroves, married for 47 years, even dressed the part for the competition, as waiter and waitress in frills and starched black and white. andy was born in British-ruled India, spent time in Ceylon, as it was called then, and he said high tea was part of the lifestyle. he 7th Duchess of Bedford has been widely credited for making afternoon tea fashionable in Britain by 1865.

According to Australia's High Tea Society run by tea fan Michelle Milton, taking tea (and coffee) gave women a social outlet to discuss topics such as politics, which were deemed unsuitable for women to discuss in mixed company.Dressing up for the occasion was mandatory.

High tea developed because "breakfasts were large in Victorian times, lunches sketchy, and dinner wasn't served until 8pm, so people were hungry by late afternoon", Milton says.

In the 18th century, tea had heavy import duties, consumption was limited to the higher classes.In the 19th century, tea use began to rise with a reduction in import duties, but was still an expensive item. Among the higher classes, tea was the only item customarily made in the dining room or drawing room by the mistress of the house.

The tradition is obviously still thriving in Australia, despite our addiction to coffee on the run. The High Tea Society lists venues in all capital cities, including eight establishments in Adelaide, 21 in Brisbane, 31 in the Sydney region and a whopping 40 in Melbourne.

Dilmah's tea challenge will continue across the world, with the Australian debut taking the challenge to Europe and Asia. The event raises awareness for the many charities Dilmah runs in Sri Lanka.

More on the high tea society:


The national winning recipes of the Dilmah Real High Tea challenge, by Sandy and JD Wingrove of Sydney and Alison Battersby of Adelaide

The Wingroves' recipes:


1 small 12 cup oval friand tin
Oven temperature set at 180c Celsius
1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
185 grams melted butter
1 cup of almond meal
1 cup of plain flour
6 egg whites
Grated orange rind from 1/2 an orange
2 teaspoons ground cardamom seeds.

For the syrup:

Zested orange peel from 1/2 an orange
1/2 a cup of brewed Dilmah Italian Almond tea
1/2 a cup of sugar

1. Spray the friand tray or a small muffin tray with oil. Put the sifted icing sugar, butter, almond meal, flour and grated orange rind together in a bowl and mix lightly. Beat the egg whites a little and add to the mixture. Place even amounts of the batter in the baking tin cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until surface springs back from the touch and golden brown.
2. To prepare the syrup place one Dilmah Italian Almond teabag in a small jug and add 1/2 cup of hot water.
3. Remove strips of the rind from half of the orange with a zester taking care to leave the pith behind. Cut rind into short strips and place in a small saucepan with the sugar and the brewed tea. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved then boil on a higher heat for approximately two minutes. Pour a little of the syrup over each friand.


Medium size muffin tray
Oven temperature 170c Celsius
12 slices of sandwich bread
Butter for spreading
Three hard-boiled eggs
1 tbsp of mango chutney
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of plain flour
1 tbsp of curry powder
1 cup of hot milk
Pinch of salt

1. Make the white sauce by melting the butter and adding the flour to make a roux. Add the curry powder and cook gently for a few minutes without browning. Remove from the heat and add the hot milk stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the salt and return to the heat bringing the sauce slowly to the boil stirring all the time. When sauce thickens remove from the heat again and cool. Mash the hard-boiled eggs with a fork and add to the sauce with the mango chutney.
2. Remove the crusts from the bread with a sharp knife and butter each one on one side only.
3. Press the slices into each mould of the muffin tray, butter side down, pressing the corners down to form a neat cup.
4. Fill each cup with the sauce and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the crusts are light brown.



100g walnuts
100g almonds
50g pistachios
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 packet filo pastry
150g melted butter


2 juiced oranges
4 Italian almond teabags
250ml boiling water
3/4cup castor sugar

1. Blend the nuts and sugar in a food processor until they resemble a fine crumble.
2. Preheat oven to 180c Celsius. Cut the sheets of filo pastry to fit the chosen dish. Brush each layer of pastry with the melted butter placing each layer of pastry on top of each other. Layer the bottom of your dish with 6 layers of buttered filo pastry.
3. Sprinkle the pastry with a generous amount of the nut mixture. Second level, 5 sheets of filo, once again sprinkle the pastry with more nut mixture. Third level, 4 sheets of pastry, then sprinkle with nuts.
4. Fourth level, 3 sheets of filo pastry, sprinkle with the last of the nut mixture and fifth level, 3 layers of the buttered filo pastry, this is the top layer of the baklava, the top sheet will need to also be brushed with the melted butter.
5. Before placing in the preheated oven, cut the baklava into desired shapes, bake for 35 mins or until golden.


1. Place the teabags into the boiling water and steep for 5 mins.
2. Place the brewed tea, orange juice and sugar into a saucepan, stirring continuously over a high heat until the sugar is dissolved, then turn down the heat and allow the syrup to simmer until it has reduced by half.
3. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Once the baklava has finished baking pour the orange and almond tea syrup over it.
4. Set aside until completely cooled and the syrup has been absorbed by the pastry.

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