Tea Time

We read the tea leaves. They said the tea party -- too long the province of little girls and the well to do -- is destined for an update. This modern menu keeps the leisurely customs of high tea but does away with its dainty flavors. Here, the classic cucumber sandwich is re-imagined with a bite of radish and black tea gets a tropical treatment with a jolt of mango purée. Raised pinkies not required.



Recipes and text by April White

Food styling and photography by emulsion


  • Tea Sandwiches: Serrano-Asparagus and Crab-Radish
  • Herbed Cucumber Salad
  • Anything Cookies Mango Tea Sparkler

Serrano-Asparagus Tea Sandwiches

Butter is the key to any tea sandwich. It keeps the thin bread from getting soggy—and here it enriches the sweetness of the serrano ham.
Serves 4 

  • 8 thin slices country white bread,
  • crust removed
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 16 thin stalks asparagus, trimmed
  • 12 ounces thinly sliced serrano ham

Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Slice asparagus in half lengthwise. Layer buttered side of four slices of bread with single layer of asparagus. Lay serrano on asparagus. Top with remaining bread. Slice each sandwich into four triangles.  

Crab-Radish Tea Sandwiches

Thinly sliced, crustless bread gives this sandwich a dainty appearance, but peppery radish — choose any variety you like, or
combine several — gives it kick.
Serves 4 

  • 8 thin slices rye bread, crust removed
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 12 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh crabmeat, chopped

Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Layer buttered side of four slices of bread with radish, overlapping slices slightly. Spread with even layer of crabmeat. Top with remaining bread. Slice each sandwich into four triangles. 

Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers are an essential ingredient of the classic British tea service, but there’s nothing stuffy about this fresh, summery salad. Don’t skip the step of salting the cucumbers. Draining excess water concentrates the flavors.
Serves 8 

  • 3 seedless cucumbers
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint  

Slice cucumber as thinly as possible. (A peeler can be a useful tool here.) Toss cucumbers with 2 teaspoons salt in a colander and allow to drain for 30 minutes. (Press to release excess liquid.) Make the dressing in a separate bowl. Slowly add olive oil to lemon juice, whisking constantly to emulsify dressing. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Toss cucumbers with dressing, dill, and mint. 

Mango Tea Sparkler

More tropical mocktail than flavored ice tea, this drink uses a concentrated black tea to give more body to the classic mango-lime combination.  
Serves 8 

  • 3 black tea bags
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cups mango nectar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 1/2 cup seltzer water
  • 8 lime wedges, for garnish  

Put tea bags in a heat-proof bowl. In a saucepan over high heat, bring water almost to a boil. Pour water over teabags and steep tea for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and cool tea. Chill until cold, about 1 hour. Stir in nectar, lime juice, and seltzer water. Serve over ice in tall glasses. Garnish with lime wedges.

Anything Cookies

Served plain, these slice-and-bake butter cookies are an excellent tea-and-coffee treat. But it’s easy to spice them up with anything you can think of. One batch can yield up to four dozen cookies—in four different varieties. (Think candied ginger or orange-cocoa.)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2   teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2   teaspoon salt
  • 3/4   cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature Coarse sugar or other cookie coating, for edges (see note)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Roll dough into a log 2 inches in diameter. Roll in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Prepare baking pans with parchment paper. Remove dough from freezer and unwrap. Cut into four equal cylinders. Whisk egg yolk until smooth. Brush yolk over sides of dough. Roll each cylinder of dough in a different coating. With a sharp knife, slice cookies 1/8   inch thick. Place on prepared pans and bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool briefly on pan, then transfer to wire rack.
Note: You can coat the cookies in plain sugar or in many of your favorite flavors. Try finely chopped candied ginger, lemon zest mixed with coarse sugar, or ground almonds—or a combination of flavors, like cocoa-espresso or cinnamon-orange zest.   

April White is the author of the cookbook Latin Evolution. The former food editor of Philadelphia magazine, her food and travel writing has appeared in Food & Wine, US Airways magazine, and The Philadelphia Inquirer

Categories: Food & Entertaining, Home & GardenFeature