Afternoon Tea: A Timeless Tradition is so much more than a recipe book — it’s a narrative. More than half the book is a flashback to Muriel Moffat’s personal fond childhood memories and the historical formalities of afternoon tea. This process of getting to the set of simple and darling recipes in the back of the book makes them that much more special: they show the nostalgic symbolism that these recipes carry.
Although the story is charming as well as compelling, parts could easily convince readers that the book is directed towards an exclusive audience: English traditions for English families. This misunderstanding comes from Moffat’s description of what “being English” visually looks like and her emphasis on the little “English” quirks that her grandmothers had and how it set her apart.
That being said, following the second chapter, Moffat proceeds warmly to close this gap by expressing her longing to teach others about the delicate practice — so that the English tradition of afternoon tea is accessible and kept alive in all of Canada.
Moffat’s writing style is dreamy and sophisticated — so much that I can visualize her experiences at the Empress and imagine the delicacy of the fine bone china. She describes things in such a naturally focused way that the visuals lingered with me and the elegance of the tradition she so adores almost floated off the page. It might make you feel compelled to go on an immediate flight to England just for the little lemon tartelettes and cucumber sandwiches featured in the pages, or at least put on a white pinafore dress and have your own afternoon tea with the traditional recipes provided in the back.
One of my favorite quotes from this book would have to be “appreciate the surroundings and the opportunity to go back in time to when we had time and took the time!” What a lovely reminder in such an immediate, technological, mass-produced world. It’s a piece of advice to take a breather and go back in time to when you had time and took the time. Sometimes it is worthwhile to spend your time just drinking tea, eating miniature delicacies and chatting away with your friends. I think this quote brings up what I love most about this book: it unwinds time to when we weren’t always in a rush but just took time to sip tea, instead of chugging it on the speed walk to your bus stop.
There are a set of contrasting themes in the book: the immediacy of seizing this English tradition before the opportunity escapes us, and the need to just slow down and enjoy life through the smallest of pleasures. Enjoying a good cup of tea allows us to do both.