Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published November 25th 2014
Two for tea, and tea for two or more
High Teas are becoming fashionable roughly a century since they were last popular in Edwardian England. So evocative of that time and leisured ease that Rupert Brook used the image to evoke rural England in 1912: '. . oh! yet, Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?'
But for the modern tastes, some things have to be updated and modernised. More and more people have strict and rigorous dietary requirements - coeliac, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, vegetarian and vegan. All are now far wider requirements than previously as we become more health conscious.
Julie in her aromatic herb workshop (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Swan Valley Cafe, of whom I have written before, have a reputation for providing top quality vegetarian, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free and raw options in food.
So when I heard they were moving into the High Tea business I was quite keen to give it a try. Charlotte and Julie run the restaurant/cafe/tea shop and the garden centre attached is run by Ray, who also supplies flowers and decorative backdrops for the various functions, including small weddings, that Swan Valley host.
The al fresco area at Swan Valley Cafe (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
You can take High Tea in the enclosed, mostly glass, room or outside under the sail shades or lush vines.
High Tea comes in two courses - savoury, then sweet, and accompanied by your choice of teas. And this is where things get very interesting because although commercial teas are available (black, green, white and red [rooibos]), the bulk of the large range of teas are made on the premises by Julie in her herb room.
The savoury selection of the High Tea (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Teas are made up for the particular properties of the herbs, thus the 'Slumber' tea has skullcap, valerian, Californian poppy, passion flower, lemon balm, hops and chamomile. Every herbal tea sold is designed and personally mixed by hand by Julie.
The first two tier cake stand arrived with our hot and cold savouries - stuffed mushrooms, vol-au-vents, vegie rolls, frittata and vegetarian Kofta laid out on salad greens and decorated with edible Nasturtium flowers (a slight peppery taste).
The sweet selection of the High Tea (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The food was excellent, although you must not think of it as a meat-equivalent. These delicious foods are not trying to be meat, they are just being their own tasty selves. I particularly enjoyed the stuffed mushrooms, delicate and savoury, and the sipid hot vol-au-vents. The frittata was particularly good as well.
Having eaten that we were quite full, so the second two-teir cake stand full of sweet goodies might have defeated us if they weren't so excellent.
The banana muffin was delicious, the carrot cake beyond reproach and the mini cheese cake (composed of entirely raw foods) topped with blueberries was outstanding. The plates also had some shards of home-made chocolate which were exceedingly strong. These are for people who think Lindt 85% needs more punch.
We tried a few teas, including single herb teas such as Ginger and the signature 'Valley Chai' which contains Cardamon, Clove buds, Black Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Darjeeling, Bay leaves, Ginger, Licorice, Nutmeg, Peppercorns and Star Anise - delicious.
High tea costs between $35 and $42.50 depending on the day and whether or not you include the Harris Organic Champagne.
Swan Valley Cafe is open Monday to Friday 9 to 5, with dinners on Friday nights as well, and from 8 to 5 weekends.
The High Teas are proving very popular, so you will need to book. Booking forms can be downloaded from the website, which is well worth a browse anyway.