Tea for two was actually sufficient for three as my two companions and I sat comfortably in the beautiful garden at the Kumkum Tea House in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. To be honest, we did ask for an extra couple of scones and sandwiches to be added to the traditional three-tier china tower. (130 shekels)
My daughter was celebrating her birthday, and my granddaughter took time off from her studies at the Hebrew University so after a day of work and travel on an unusually warm May day, we were happy to relax under a shady pergola and smell the flowers.
The teas, a choice of white, green, black, oolong, jasmine or herbal, were served in individual teapots, delicate and pretty but large enough to provide sufficient refills to the dainty little tea cups, the sort that people inherit from their grandmothers and which require the tradition of adding the milk, optional, before the tea so that the thin porcelain will not crack.
There are theories about the origins of sandwiches, one being that the Earl of Sandwich did not want to disturb his card game for dinner and demanded that his chunk of meat be put between two slices of thick bread. Afternoon tea is accredited to Anna Duchess of Bedford, who in 1840 complained that too much time elapsed between lunch and eight o’clock dinner, and required what developed into afternoon tea at four o’clock, this time with tiny crustless sandwiches, scones and cakes.
At Kumkum one can order afternoon tea at any hour. The dainty sandwiches, not quite as wafer-thin as found in the UK, varied between egg and cucumber, cream cheese and salmon, and a tasty vegetarian spread.
The delicious pastries
The scones, accompanied by little pots of jam and whipped cream, were fresh out of the oven evidenced when I asked to talk to Elisheva Levy, the manager and pastry chef, who was just rolling out the dough for the next batch as the tables inside and in the garden of the teahouse were fast filling up.
The top tier of the tower held little petits fours, a variety of creamy chocolate and soft fruity temptations.
The waitress, Adi, Elisheva’s daughter, was helpful and efficient and the service was prompt, although we were in no hurry to leave.
While talking to Elisheva we were intrigued by the interior of the teahouse, shelves full of books, china and teapots and other tea-making accessories, all for sale, and the William Morris tiles in the bathroom, a feature of the original property.
Born in Manchester in the north of England, Elisheva opened Kumkum last July in partnership with a lawyer who owned the building and who had dreamed of having a tea shop. Previously a humous bar, the new owners designed the tea house to suit the nostalgic demands of any customer who has enjoyed tea in little English villages, but indeed it fits in with its Baka neighborhood, far from the building chaos and road-works at the other end of town.
Gluten-free scones are also available and those wanting a traditional afternoon picnic can order takeaway. ■
Kumkum Tea House, 23 Bethlehem Road, Jerusalem Tel: 077-5373226Kosher Tzohar Open 8.30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and on Friday morning
The writer was not a guest of the teahouse.