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Fortnum & Mason: Time for Tea, by Tom Parker Bowles

30 July 2021

Simon Walsh on the idea of something with a cuppa

ONE lockdown benefit has been the revival of afternoon tea. Swanky hotels have been trying it on for years, with Ritz-type menus and prices to match, but the homely tea-break ritual has been especially welcome and necessary this past year or so.

Tom Parker Bowles continues his partnership with the royal grocers to give us Time for Tea, a compendium of discerning tea facts, with tips that are more than PG. The chatty style belies serious scholarship, which places tea in its historical context and gives a balanced overview of terroir, geography, climate, conditions, seasonality, and type.

Then there is insight into health benefits, grades, blends, storage, and how to serve it. No bag-in-a-mug stuff here. Being a Fortnum & Mason book, it leans towards their own philosophy and goods. That’s no bad thing, considering the store’s reputation and sway among tea aficionados; they know what they’re doing.

More than half the content is recipes, and each one has a recommended tea to go with it. This elevates tea-ing to an art, neatly expressed in cocktail formulas and diverse pieces on ceremonies or rare teas.

David LoftusTea cakes: an illustration from the book

Some dishes might be aspirational-yummy-mummy, but there is plenty else (scones, tarts, Welsh cakes, biscuits), with a nod to luxe, and Bake Off, too — such as scrumptious teacakes (illustrated). Quotes and cartoons scattered throughout complement the playfulness, such as the “Cups for every occasion” pages, recommending what to drink for crisis, celebration, hangover, post-exercise, or daydreaming.

It’s joyful, and just what we need, if only to browse as we snap a biscuit over chipped china and take a break.

The Revd Simon Walsh is a
Church Times cookery writer.


Fortnum & Mason: Time for Tea
Tom Parker Bowles
Fourth Estate, £20
Church Times Bookshop £18

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