high tea : leaf & tea merchants


left close up

Ok, this place and I got off on a bad start. No bother that we had to opt for a 1pm booking rather than the leisurely time slot of 2pm (traditional afternoon tea time). What really got my ruffles out was the request (or more likely, the imposition) that each table has a two hour time limit. That’s right ladies, you must clear out in two hours. Apparently Leaf & Tea has forgotten the adage of settling in for a cup of tea and cake for an afternoon. But wait!.. there’s more!

There’s also a 5% surcharge on the weekends. I can understand that cafes need the surcharge to compensate for the weekend penalty wages. But when the place is fully booked and there is a time limit on tables, that implies though Leaf & Tea is making as much money as humanly possible, they 1) can’t afford to pay their staff penalty rates even at full capacity (in that case, it doesn’t make good business sense to open), or more likely, 2) trying to suck as much money as possible out of willful patrons.

‘Nuf ranting. For the purposes of researching Perth’s high tea offerings, Leaf & Tea had to be included, despite the not so glowing introduction to their practices.

Located just off Beaufort Street, Leaf & Tea is admirably one of a handful of outlets in Perth which focuses on tea rather than coffee. Their location on Walcott St is just off the chaos of Beaufort Street, affording a quiet atmosphere away from the traffic. The cafe also sports a sunlit front area which is enclosed from the elements, insulated in the warmth and soothing music plus overlooking city views.

Walking in off the street, the soft chatter of ladies delicately indulging high tea (or at least, trying not to wolf down treats at an alarming rate) can be heard. I was very late for my appointment with Jess, who has gladly become my high tea partner in crime. Jess (the super-friend!.. thanks for being so patient!) had already ordered the high tea set for two and it was quite a marvellous sight!

The vision of numerous three tier platters redolent with confections on each table was beholding and really made me feel we were partaking in a traditional ritual and it was a welcome escape from normal life. As soon as I sat down I was asked which tea I would prefer. My favourite, orange pekoe was not available, but the attendant, showing her expertise in tea, recommended the assam tea and soon enough a pot of assam arrived.

Upon closer inspection, the three tiers of goodies seemed to have a juvenile and romantic theme about it. The plastic tiers (call me a traditionalist – I like my high tea with all the bone china trimmings) contained a few left-of-the-middle offerings. Splashed with red rose petals and with each confection contained in frilly cupcake cases, the high tea set was very girly and fetching.

jessica and the high tea

We started on the bottom savoury tier, working our way through the requisite finger sandwiches of cucumber and egg, which were slightly dry (these were the only pieces which represented traditional high tea offerings). The cute mini quiches were the refreshingly pastry-less, leaving a cup of lightly whipped egg. The unusual addition of party pies was welcome, though odd. Upon dissecting the fluffy pastry parcel with our tiny forks, the filling of beef and peas was noted by Jess to be high quality.

The second tier, traditionally filled with little cakes and scones, is somewhat different at Leaf & Tea. Instead of petit fours, there were mini muffins and cupcakes, which I thought were pretty low rent substitutes. The cupcake was dry and looked unimpressive – it wasn’t one of those dreamy pastel cupcakes, but was a stale, overblown cousin. I think the cupcakes were made out of hazelnut meal but the texture was exceptionally dry. The meringue was almost unacceptable – overcooked and hard, it was a struggle to consume it and the fruit topping was sour.

The top layer contained a chocolate dipped strawberry half, a small piece of pink turkish delight and a chocolate heart. Overall, I thought the high tea was too low in quality to be called a veritable ‘high tea’. It reminded me of bad party food. Granted, their presentation of the high tea is nice – who could resist a three tier platter with red rose petals?

The only items well executed on the high tea set were the party pies and mini quiches – which I suspect have been premade elsewhere. Leaf & Tea’s inclusions of sub standard ready-made bakery items instead of actual petit fours or desserts, brings down the quality of the high tea. Usually a high tea has some works of a pastry chef, which was sorely missing and would have added an air of luxury. The only saving grace is the serving size, which relative to other Perth high teas, is above average.

What I do like about Leaf & Tea is they have taken a different tack on the Perth definition of ‘cafe’. Instead of coddling the customers with old world charm, goodies and fancy foods, Leaf & Tea seems more intelligent, encouraging patrons to focus on the tea and offerings. Education about tea can only be a good thing in our coffee saturated city. Though I wouldn’t return for their high tea!

Looking at other reviews on high teas offered around Perth, Leaf & Tea seems to be one of the forerunners – worrying considering we have a few more venues to go! I hope Jess and I find better on our high tea spree through Perth.

The high tea at Leaf & Tea is great if you don’t take food seriously. If you like the idea of picking party food off a platter complete with rose petals, then Leaf & Tea’s high tea is a good choice.

Just keep it under two hours.

– 11 party pies out of 20 –

Up’s: Nice presentation. Informative staff. Tea education and tastings. The tea paraphernalia for sale.

Down’s: Surcharge on weekends. Two hour time limit on high tea tables is a bit rich. Quality of the high tea below expectations.

Leaf & Tea Merchants, 60 Walcott Street, Mt Lawley WA

T: (08) 9471 1105

Leaf & Tea Merchants on Urbanspoon

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