Steep Your Holiday Stress Away in Wellesley

December 21, 2015

When adulting gets too hard, take a break with traditional English tea (and dainty, delicious treats) at Dorset.

Lisa Robin Benson
Steep Your Holiday Stress Away in Wellesley | WGBH | Craving Boston

In the midst of checking lists twice, I sometimes forget what I enjoy about this time: family and friends, festivities, resolutions and good food.

That’s what brought me and a family member to Dorset European Bakery and Café one Saturday afternoon. If you need a sophisticated little break, I suggest you stop by, too.

The café, located in Wellesley, has an afternoon tea that is steeped in English tradition. (Yes, I just made that pun).

Steep Your Holiday Stress Away in Wellesley | WGBH | Craving Boston

The Dorset was founded in June 2006 by sisters Sue and Sally Khudairi. Sue, who is still the current owner, went to school in England and lived there for several years after. When she returned to the States, she brought with her the British habit of afternoon tea.

You won't find tinned biscuits at the Dorset; everything is baked or cooked in-house. And all the goodies are organic, with many seasonal ingredients coming from local farms.

Because one can't live on crumpets alone, they also offer breakfast, lunch and catering. They even carry gluten-free options—a rare thing for a business built on wheat flour-filled crustless sandwiches and scones.

We came for traditional afternoon tea. How often do I get to induldge in dainty little sandwiches and nerd out about British etiquette? 

We choose a table by the big sunny windows. On the right day in spring, you can see the Boston marathon from here. Now the glass is festooned with lights and silver and red decorations. We both order the Dorset afternoon tea service ($20.50), which includes four seasonal finger sandwiches, holiday themed sweets, and a pot of tea, of course.  We sip a custom blended loose-leaf Assam infused with raspberries, blackberries and elderberries. The elixir is smooth and mellow, a nice foil for the rich plate of savories and sweets on the table. We nibble the requisite (and quite tasty) little sandwiches: turkey with a sweet-tart cranberry chutney, and Italian ham with Fuji apple spread.

Favorite sweet bites include a citrus scone with imported clotted cream and preserves (warm, melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness) and the nostalgia of a crumbly raspberry sable cookie that perfectly replicates something my grandma used to bake.

We chat with Sue about our mutual love of good food as we pick our plates clean. She tells us they have customers come in to celebrate birthdays, and that tea service gets busiest around Mother’s and Father’s Day.

But now seems as good a time as any for such a treat. The holiday stress has evaporated with our tea, and I think we’ve started a family tradition.

At Dorset we enjoyed ourselves without much worry over etiquette. But in case you’re curious, here are some tips: If you put sugar or milk in your tea, remember to stir in a straight line from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. If you stir in a circular motion, the sugar won’t dissolve properly. You should also break your scone into small pieces and butter them individually (rather than slathering the whole shebang) to avoid an embarassing mishap like getting a shower of crumbs in your lap.

As for putting the cream or jam on first, that’s still a matter of debate in England. According to Devon tradition, it’s proper to put the cream on first, but in Cornish tradition, it’s the other way around.

Sue’s solution? “I don't believe there is a ‘right-way’ to eat clotted cream with preserves with your scone," says the pro. "I do, however, prefer to eat them together."

I’ll raise a teacup to that!

Afternoon Tea is from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Monday – Saturday. 

Dorset European Bakery and Café  352 Washington Street, Wellesley Hills, 781.239.8988


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