High Tea at the Royal Livingstone
Gazing above me is a large portrait of Dr. David Livingstone. Yes, the same man who the New York Herald had sent a search party to find in Africa in 1869. Two years later, when the man in charge of the search was sure he found him, he spoke those famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Years later, when David Livingstone passed away the local people cut out his heart and only sent his body home. They said they would return the body but that his heart belonged to Africa. I look up at the portrait at the man who traveled before traveling was easy, especially in Africa. What an adventure that must have been.
“Mam, here are the selections of teas. Let me know when you have made your choice.” Looking at the long list I replied, “What would you recommend?” “I would recommend the Emperors Green Tea.” “I will have that one.” “Yes, Madam.”
I sit and take in the rest of the room, as the music flowing from the grand piano in the bar takes me back to a time when Livingstone lived. Large china closets sit on either side of the portrait above the grand fireplace. They are filled with leather covered books, large vases, old cameras and spy scopes. There are large folding mirrors in the corners of the room. Couches, oversize chairs and small side tables fill the center of the room. On the side of the main room there are tables for two. Above me are two large wrought iron chandlers. Wood ceiling fans hang down and turn slowly making pace with the lazy afternoon. Past the grand piano in the other room I see the bartender wiping glasses spotless. Most staff are wearing gold and black silk vests covering their white button-down shirts. Other staff have blacks suits and wear a black bow tie. All staff wear a gold name plate. Ones not busy wait at the side of the room and look for the glance of customers who may be in need something.
“Would you like a tea sandwich? There is cucumber, egg, salmon or grilled vegetable sandwiches.” “Yes please. I will have the salmon and grilled vegetable. Thank you.” Later, I am taken to the center of the room to select my own deserts. “How to choose?”, I wonder to myself. It is a feast for the eyes. I am not wanting to take anything from the perfectly set up selection. “Can you tell me what deserts there are?” One of the staff begins listing off the selections. The are several types of scones, mini pastries, fancy small cakes, quiches, muffins and oh, the amount of chocolate. The chocolate truffle cake was an artistic work of perfection. It had white chocolate shooting up from the side of the cake and chocolate truffles on top in the center. “Can you cut that one for me.” I point to the truffle cake. “I am afraid I would ruin it.” “Of course.” I make my selections and return to my table as a staff member brings a tray with my tea.
The red and yellow rose china pattern remind me of home. I sit back and take in all that surrounds me. The piano music wafts up into the rafters and takes me away.
Henry James once said, “There are a few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” I could not agree more. When I return home I think I shall dedicate more afternoons to it.