Will Torrent’s journey into Afternoon Tea
Will Torrent. Photo: Jonathan Greyson
Will Torrent, the well-established, passionate pastry chef and Cacao Barry Ambassador, already introduced in our interview a year ago, published his new book in Fabruary: Afternoon Tea at Home. The book showcases the key techniques involved in pâtisserie, baking, chocolate work and serving savoury dishes in 80 beautifully illustrated recipes, including guest recipes from top restaurants and hotels, including The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Berkeley, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Harrods, Belmond and the Gramercy Tavern.
Starting with a brief history of afternoon tea and how it came to be such a British institution, Will offers up recipes for basic jams, spreads, butters and curds, everything you might need to serve alongside a carefully planned afternoon tea. Recipes include classics such as Smoked Salmon and Whipped Cream Cheese Sandwiches, Cherry and Almond Bakewell Tarts, Vanilla Shortbread and Fruit Scones; Classics with a clever twist such as Malted Milk Egg Custard Tarts, Cucumber Sandwiches with Yuzu and Chive Butter and Crab Mayonnaise Éclairs; as well as more adventurous offerings of Prosecco, Lime and Mint Jellies, Lime and Almond Matcha Tea Friands and a very decadent Apricot and Lavender Almondine from Benoit Blin at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
The book is full of inspiration and wonderful insights about the world of the afternoon tea, so we were curious to learn more about Will’s journey into the tea world.
New Fondant Fancies by Will Torrent. Photo: Matt Russell
How was the idea of a book about afternoon tea born?
I love afternoon tea and following the success of my previous book Chocolate at Home my wonderful publishers asked me what I'd like to write about next and the words Afternoon Tea shot out of my mouth instantly. It’s back in vogue and people around the world love it. It’s quintessentially British and oozes pomp and circumstance.
You have visited many of the best afternoon tea venues in the United Kingdom. What is your conclusion? Do you have a favourite?
There are so many amazing chefs, hotels and more doing fantastic afternoon tea and I was lucky to curate six of the finest establishments to feature in the book. These places do amazing things from a sweet perspective and they all have very special qualities. Tea at the Ritz is the place to start, followed by the chic and trendy The Berkeley, preceding the grandeur of The Dorchester. Head across London to the wonderful food emporium of Harrods before heading down the motorway to the wonderful gardens and fresh produce of Le Manoir, before hopping across the pond to New York and the world famous Gramercy Tavern. They all do it brilliantly and are wonderful at it too. It’s not only food, it’s also about service, atmosphere and style!
Chocolate domes by Will Torrent. Photo: Matt Russell
What does your perfect afternoon tea look like?
For me, it has to be classic with a twist and of course washed down with some Champagne! Smoked salmon sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches must be featured but with gentle updates in the form of whipped cream cheese and yuzu and chive butter. Light and fluffy scones studded with vine fruits with copious amounts of homemade jam and Cornish clotted cream. And then there are cakes … victoria sandwich, battenburg, fondant fancies or the more extravagant, macarons, delicious delicacies and more.
What about chocolate and tea?
It’s an absolute must have! However, nothing too heavy or intense as you still want to balance your afternoon tea menu well. Chocolate and fruit combinations for me are a real afternoon tea winner - chocolate and raspberry or cherry or even lemon works really well. From a tea perspective, something malty and rich like Assam goes perfectly with chocolate patisserie such as my Spiced chocolate domes with rum soaked raisins. Or if you want something a little more dainty, try my Black Forest Fondant Fancies or My Chocolate, Lemon and Yuzu teacakes - the fruit lightens the pastry but the delicious chocolate still sings through.
Any special message for readers of your new book?
Take time to enjoy the dining experience. Tea is all about relaxing and occasionally feeling like you are on the set of Downton Abbey! As they say, ‘it’s a fine life, when it comes to afternoon tea’.