Afternoon Tea Week

Did you know there was such a thing? A whole week dedicated to Afternoon Tea? Well, we celebrate everything else on earth, so why not afternoon tea? And you need a week, really, not just a day, so you can sample the offerings of all the tea houses in your area.

Afternoon tea can be stiff, unimaginative, and poorly executed. It’s often expensive as well, which leaves me feeling foolish for indulging in something fancy that I didn’t really enjoy. When it is done right, however, it is divine.

Grey de Luxe, scented with Lemon Myrtle, native to Australia.

While in Melbourne, I had to try the Champagne Tea at The Hotel Windsor, the city’s longest running afternoon tea service. Very often, when visiting an iconic hotel, you come for the history and the ceremony, and hope the tea is good. Often it is not. But The Windsor was very, very good indeed. Better than good, by quite a bit.

We were greeted at the door by the most charming host, who delighted us with his explanations and accompanying witticisms. He poured our champagne promptly and with a generous hand. It was a warm welcome that put us at ease right away.

The champagne arrived first, Louis Roederer, to have with our sandwiches and savouries. While it was not inexpensive, the pricing was clear both for our meal and any additional glasses (which of course we had to have).

The savouries and sandwiches were very nice. Fresh, not soggy as happens in some famed Toronto establishments, with classic flavours done well. We had artichoke mini-quiches and a mushroom-truffle bit of decadence before our traditional trio of chicken Waldorf salad, egg salad and cucumber fingers. We were too hungry to snap a photo before we devoured the tray, so you’ll just have to trust me that they were lovely.

The tea came next with the sweets. Clearly, tea treated with reverence here, as cherished as coffee is to coffee lovers. Each selection was brewed perfectly. The signature black tea was a blend of the harvest of three Ceylon teas, with notes of honey and wet cedar. I had the Grey de Luxe, which uses Australian lemon myrtle in place of the traditional bergamot. A softer, less bitter finish, best had straight up.

Our many coloured sweet stack had a little bit of everything: apple and caramel, strawberry and rhubarb, yuzu and passionfruit, lemon poppyseed, and of course chocolate hazelnut. All quite as good to eat they were to behold, but the scones were the thing.

The scones were two distinct textures. The first was closer in texture to a traditional scone, but lighter and less flaky. The next scone was fluffier still, with slightly more distinct crumb, and heavenly flavours. Much like a hot cross bun, it was scented with a spice mixture and candied peel, but lemon rather than orange, just to remind you where you were. I found this extremely pleasing and will borrow this concept come Easter.

Oh and the clotted cream! Silky smooth, the barest hint of sour for complexity, and rich yet airy. We were encouraged to ask for seconds if we wanted them, and we did. And thirds.

As my companion said, it was all very traditional except for the palm trees outside the window, but that’s a very Canadian perspective. To Australians, this is the penultimate tea, the longest running tea service in Melbourne. Only the pandemic shut it down; it carried on through two world wars and the Depression since its opening in 1883. Christmas lunch was instituted in 1963 as the only variation from the daily schedule. Small wonder the whole event was flawless; they’ve had a bit of time to perfect it.

The Hotel Windsor was exactly what we were looking for in afternoon tea, and I’m grateful to have experienced such a delightful venue. So quintessentially Australian: proudly patriotic, dedicated to excellence and yet down-to-earth. A note to travellers: if you take afternoon tea on a Tuesday through Thursday, you are eligible for a discount on a room.

Wishing you happy sipping this Afternoon Tea Week!

Lady Baker’s Christmas Tea

I had the chance to try a few seasonal teas this Christmas season from Lady Baker’s Tea, one of my favourite Canadian tea merchants. The ladies behind this little PEI company have an incredible range of customers from across North America, as I know from interviewing them for my recent article in SIP Magazine on the importance of shopping locally (see my book review in the last issue on page 50). Some of that is due to the educational blog that helps people learn more about tea. Some of it is due to the unique blends they create.

The three Christmas flavours I tried were Vienna Eggnog, Peppermint Swirl, and Cardamom Magic. They’ve also got a more typical Christmas spice blend, Holiday Harmony Spice.

Peppermint Swirl is unlike your typical holiday peppermint tea. More substantial than a strictly herbal tea, and less tannic than a black tea, this tea sits at a nice crossroads between hearty and light. The fine green tea shines when brewed at 80°C, providing a thick infusion with bright leaf that balances nicely with the mint.

The Cardamom Magic is a surprising blend. Fragrant, citrusy cardamom and honey-toned Sri Lankan black tea are brightened by hibiscus and almond. Pairs equally well with date bread in the afternoon or as a finish to a heavy meal of duck or roast beef.

The Vienna Eggnog is my favourite, but then I adore eggnog. And this blend does not let me down! A little rum and I might think I was drinking the real thing! Okay, not quite, but this is zero calories and tastes divine.

A pot of any one of theses will make you feel like Christmas is in the air. Stay warm and cozy, and drink more tea!

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

Try this: make a nice cup of genmaicha (80°C for 3 minutes). Take a sip. Savour the toasty, nutty, savoury delight of this popular Japanese tea. Now close your eyes and—don’t think about it—take a piece of white chocolate and take a nibble. Take another sip.

By now you’re sure I’m insane. I get it. Do it anyway.

I was in a chocolate and tea pairing class at the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (THAC) when I was asked to do the same thing by our instructor, the THAC president, Shabnam Weber. I was giving the pairing a nervous side-eye, quite sure that this was very wrong, somehow. But I was here to learn, and Shabnam had yet to steer me in the wrong direction. What could I do? I tried it. It was fantastic.

This unlikely duo, when taken together, was very strongly reminiscent of Rice Krispie Squares. The puffed rice in the tea, the waxy sweetness of the white chocolate, and the familiar briny undertone of the toasty green tea all united to make a funky little flavour-mishmash. Like a Jelly Belly recipe where you combine two lemon and one coconut to replicate the taste of a lemon meringue pie. But weirder.

As soon as I had this glorious strange combination, I knew I had to persuade others to try it. Make it into a dessert, even. But what dessert? Rice Krispie Squares, of course: White Chocolate Crispy Rice Squares with Genmaicha.

If you’re still reluctant to follow me down this path, I understand completely. My taste-testers all had strong, unmistakable reactions. People either loved it or hated it. No middle ground. Fortunately for me, the fans outnumbered the unenlightened by a ratio of 9 to 1. It’s a divisive little dessert, favouring the bold and all lovers of matcha ice cream.

Speaking of matcha: this dessert would be so much easier to make if you used matcha. And if you already love the combination of white chocolate and matcha, why on earth wouldn’t you just use that? It would mean simply stirring in some powder rather than infusing cream with loose leaf tea, then straining it. You could do that.

But this pairing is special, and it works in a uniquely synergistic manner. Try it. It’s weird. It’s wonderful. It’s a one-of-a-kind delight. Worth every bit of your effort and trust in me, in the uniqueness of this tea, and in your own sense of adventure.

These pretty little delicacies would be wonderful cut into tiny cubes and served as part of an afternoon tea platter. You could make it a fusion menu, à là Shangrila (they do matcha cupcakes with black sesame, is that not also a daring leap of culinary imagination?), or serve them as dessert when you order in sushi or noodles. Or just to nibble whenever you have a cup of green tea. Genmaicha, of course.

Tasting is believing. Adventure awaits!

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

This unusual pairing of ingredients—sweet white chocolate and genmaicha—is the surpise hit on the afternoon tea menu. Tasting is believing.
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #brewcrew, Afternoon tea, Cooking with tea, Genmaicha, Rice Krispie Squares, White chocolate


  • 8” X 8” X 4” square pan
  • fine sieve
  • Parchment paper.


  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup loose leaf genmaicha, or 4 tea bags
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups fine quality white chocolate chips like Ghirardelli, Lindt or Callebaut
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 7 cups Rice Krispie cereal


  • Butter the pan and line with parchment paper.
  • Heat cream to 80°C or °176 F. Pour in your genmaicha, give it a gentle stir, and let sit for three minutes. The tea leaves will swell up and look as if they have absorbed all the cream. Don’t worry—they haven’t. 
  • Pour cream into a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Strain out the cream, pressing the tea leaves with the back of a spoon, or your hands. You should end up with about 1 ½ cups of tea-infused cream.
  • In the larger pot, place ½ cup of tea-infused cream with the butter over low heat. Add in 1 cup white chocolate chips, keeping the heat low and stirring all the while until smooth. Add marshmallows and do the same. Don’t let this mixture burn or curdle—slowly but surely does it.
  • Stir in cereal, folding slowing and gently until it is all evenly coated. 
  • Press the cereal mixture into the pan gently. Don’t press it too hard or you’ll have heavy, dense squares. Pop it in the fridge to firm up if you have room, otherwise the countertop will do just fine.
  • Pour the remaining 1 cup of tea-infused cream back into the smaller pot and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Add in the remaining 3 cups of white chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Place the pot back on low heat and stir gently until white chocolate chips are melted. Stir together until smooth and let sit until room temperature. 
  • Remove the pan from the fridge. Spread ganache evenly over the squares, smoothing with a spatula until the whole surface is covered. Do NOT rush and pour while too warm or it will melt into your squares. 
  • Decorate the top with some scattered white chocolate chips and genmaicha. Return to the fridge to firm up. Serve at room temperature. 


Do NOT pour hot ganache on warm squares – it will sink in instead of sitting on top, drenching your squares into a soupy mess. Let everything cool right down.
For brewing the tea: I’ve put in the precise measurements because if your cream is too hot, the tea will be excessively bitter. Don’t worry if the cream seems a tad bitter when it’s done steeping, however. The sweetness of the marshmallows and white chocolate will counteract it.
You can use your hands and/or a cheesecloth to help wring every bit of cream from the tea leaves (if it’s not too hot, of course). You’ll bring the cream to a boil again and kill the germs. Mostly.
Use fresh cereal and marshmallows and good quality tea. The best ingredients make the best desserts.
If you use tea bags instead of loose leaf, you’ll need 4-6, depending on how strong you’d like the tea flavour to be. Keep in mind the white chocolate and marshmallows will dampen the tea’s astringency quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to brew it strong. You will need less cream for the recipe. Keep to ½ cup in the squares, adding any extra to the ganache, which requires less precision for measurements.
If you use unsalted butter, add in a pinch of salt to your cream, butter and chocolate mixture. If not, omit.
Matcha White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares: Omit genmaicha and add 1 tsp. matcha to the cream for the squares, and 1 ½ tsp. to the cream for the ganache. Adjust the amount of matcha to taste.
Vanilla White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares: Omit the green tea. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract to cream for the squares, and 1 tbsp. to the cream for the ganache.
Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Squares: I don’t have a recipe for that, but you know who does? Chelsea’s Messy Apron. Crazy good. With chocolate on top.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!