A Queensland High Tea.

Leaving behind Bangalow Markets, we were back onto the interminable Pacific Highway heading back over the Queensland border for High Tea at the Old Teahouse Gallery in Mudgeeraba in the lush Gold Coast hinterland. With traffic ever unpredictable, we arrived an hour early, giving us time for explorations and an impromptu photo shoot.

This was stage two of my Sister-In-Law’s 60th Surprise Birthday Party. I must admit it was getting harder to keep the secret quiet, especially when she’d asked us when we were heading home the night before. I’m not a good liar.

Although we’d been on quite a journey, this house is surprisingly well travelled. Nothing like splitting a house in two, sticking it on the back of a truck and moving it around.

In 1911, it was originally built in Scarborough Street, Southport. Salvaged from demolition, it was cut in half and moved into a historic pioneer village, The Settlement. In April 1995, the house was sold, cut in half once again and moved to its current location in Mudgeeraba, nestled among gigantic eucalypts and palms. No wonder it hasn’t moved since. It no doubt wants to put down roots and settle down.

Mama RJL in front of house

If you are not familiar with Queenslander houses, they have their own unique charm and have been designed to suit the hot, wet Queensland climate:

“The Australian tropical house conjures a vision of a large sprawling timber structure on stumps with an extensive, deep, shaded verandah accessed via French doors. The roof is iron and the pitch is steep. A bougainvillaea, a Mango tree, and or a Frangipani adorn the front garden of the house. The primary reason for the development of the Queenslander was the climate. The long hot summer days often ended with a torrential downpour. A house with wide verandahs that provided shelter from these conditions was essential. The importance of the verandahs as an architectural element in a tropical Australian house cannot be underestimated because it is one area which lent itself to an informal semi-outdoor lifestyle suited to the climate. The verandah became an integral part of every house and their use an essential part of the Australian way of life. The cool space framed with white posts, decorative balustrades and brackets became a symbol of the tropical house as an essential link between the indoors and the outdoors.


Roderick Street

My Grandparents’ Queenslander House.

Stepping into the Old Teahouse Gallery, we weren’t only experiencing its history. Indeed, we were returning to my grandparents’ Queenslander home in Ipswich and retracing the footsteps of my great grandparents and their parents and even their parents before them. My grandmother’s family were Queensland pioneers in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Bowen.

So, as I’m sure you’ll understand, being inside this pretty Queenslander House, brought back so many bitter-sweet memories. My grandparents have passed away. Their Queenslander home has been sold. And, we don’t cross over the border often now either.

Memories, light the corners of my mind
Misty water color memories of the way we were
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
smiles we gave to one another
for the way we were.

The Way We Were.

Portrait Mama & Papa

My Grandparents.

Indeed, my memories of my grandparents are so vivid and real, that I can almost reach out and touch them again. Say hello. Give them a hug. Hear their unforgettable voices again. Then, those visions brutally fade and they’re gone. Just like phantom limb pains, my renewed grief is like that macabre, intense itch on a missing foot. Memory’s now hacking through my heartstrings like a blunt knife, severing those precious ties all over again. A desperate beggar, I fall to my knees. Please…just one last cup of tea, one last chat? Then again, I can’t help being greedy and wanting more.

Indeed, I would love my grandmother to meet my kids and for them to know her. I’d love them to go fishing with my grandfather with his handmade line, frugally wrapped around an old lemonade bottle. How I’d love them to hear his stories. He was famous for his stories. They might have been the same old stories and I still remember the annoyance: “We’ve already heard that one”. Little did we know, that he’d outlive his stories, his memories and that laugh would be silenced long before we’d say goodbye.


Visiting my grandfather with the kids, looking at my son’s Fisher Price laptop. Our visit brought his right out of his shell. It was incredible!

You see, my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s, that cruel disease which snatches away more than just your memories. Like a blasted thief striking during the night, the disease took him away too. At least, the man we knew and who knew us… not that we loved him any less. Perhaps, feeling him slip away, we even loved him more!


My grandfather waving goodbye as my grandmother stands at the top of the stairs.

Yet, while there were all those spangled threads of memories past, with a spider’s architectural genius, we were weaving new threads into a dazzling web. Down the end of the table, the children sparkled, back lit by the sun. Our son sat at the head of their table, surrounded by the girls wearing floral garlands…almost “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes”.

High tea kids

The kids enjoying a magical high tea.

Time for tea.


The table was beautifully presented and we each had our own, unique vintage tea cup, saucer and plate. Nothing beats tea in a vintage bone china tea cup, except when you have a smorgasbord of specialty teas to choose from.We were presented with what I’ll call a tea tray with over twenty different varieties of tea in little jars. It was very hard to choose only one and inhaling the rich scents of “Creme Brulee”, “Fruits of the Forest”, orange, cinnamon, raspberry… What bliss!


I chose Creme Brulee. Please don’t ask me to describe the specifics. I’m not the tea equivalent of one of those wanky wine tasters who can find “plum” in a grape. What I will say, however, is that the tea tasted fresh and very smooth. That’s as good as my description gets.

However, High Tea isn’t just about tea and fancy dresses. It’s also about dainty, edible morsels in miniature.

Considering we hadn’t had lunch and our sitting started at 2.ooPM, our family was ravenous. Naturally, I wondered whether all these small morsels were going to be enough to satisfy our enormous appetites. Was this going to be one of those places where you need to dip down the road for “real food” after paying $50.00 for a lettuce leaf on a huge white plate? I hoped not!


However, I needn’t have worried. There was plenty and each morsel was scrumptious. There were savouries, macaroons, mille feuille, mini scones with rich dollops of jam and cream. By the way, the scones were soft and moreish and nothing approaching ammunition. Scones are hard to get right and a good test of culinary ability.

By the time the scones appeared and quickly disappeared, I was starting to think about what we’ll call “an elegant sufficiency”.

There can be a fine line between hungry and gluttony.

Thank goodness, I just made it!


Alas! You can’t lick your plate at High Tea!

It was time to head back over the border ready for the long drive home.

Have you ever been out for high tea? Please do share and link through to any posts.

Xx Rowena

Anybody looking at savour the delights of high tea at the Old Teahouse Gallery can check out their website at http://www.theoldteahousegallery.com


29 thoughts on “A Queensland High Tea.

  1. merrildsmith

    The Queensland houses resemble the old houses on the NJ seashore. We have enjoyed the porches at some beach houses–catching the sea breeze.

    I have been to tea, but not recently. My husband actually got me a gift card to a teahouse, but we haven’t used it yet. Now that we have warm weather here (as in very warm!), we may wait until it gets cool again before we use it. It looks like you had a lovely time!

  2. vanbytheriver

    What a beautiful post. You treat family with honor and sensitivity. Just lovely. 💘
    p.s. I’ve been to a few high tea events. I mostly remember the cucumber sandwiches. The others…still not so sure what I was eating ?

  3. roughseasinthemed

    This isn’t the first time I’ve read about afternoon tea being called high tea. It’s most bizarre. High tea in England is sort of a six o’clock meal, ham and eggs or something substantial. Whatever, those scones look delicious. I made some once or twice. Always came out like rocks 😀

  4. Rowena Post author

    That’s really interesting. I didn’t know that’s what you called it. “High tea” definitely isn’t something I knew as a child. Perhaps, it’s an American term. I’m off to consult the Google guru. Thanks for the follow xx Rowena

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thank you very much, Van and thank you for your beautiful words. Family is very important to me and it’s also very important to me that we treat people with respect. Alzheimer’s attacks people from all walks of life. My grandfather was an incredibly intelligent man who was fluent in two languages and read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek as well. He was a Church Pastor.
    I have never had Cucumber Sandwiches but I did a Google search and out found out they’re so much more than cucumber on bread and butter. My kids love cucumber so I’ll give them a whirl.
    xx Rowena

  6. roughseasinthemed

    I reviewed a book recently, American, deep south, and the characters were invited for high tea at rich person’s house. They didn’t even get cucumber sandwiches or cakes!!! Just a cup of tea. I’ll be interested to look at google too.

  7. Rowena Post author

    Yes, except we’re starting to query whether “high tea” is an American term?
    By the way, have you ever had cucumber sandwiches? I haven’t and when I mentioned them to my Geoff, he groaned and had horroble meories of sliced cucumber served with “plastic” cheese at the local Country Women’s Association (CWA) Hall. He comes from Scottsdale in NE Tasmania and back in the day, they had very simple food selections. Spaghetti, for example, was considered “foreign” and came in a tin.

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, that would be great. I’ll probably put it up next week. You could post them in the comments and I’ll stick them in the body with a link to your blog.

  9. Jim

    I bought my youngest daughter a wonderful Russian porcelain tea service so she and her friends could have tea in the afternoon. they have a blast with the service. I need to buy her a cake stand just because.

  10. browney237

    I enjoyed your post.
    We love Queenslanders and enjoyed the time our son lived in Queensland as the architecture is so different to what we have in South Australia.

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  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Lovely post Rowena with so much lovely detail and memories of your grandparents. It is sad that your children won’t grow up knowing them but you can give them the essence of them through your memories. High teas are fairly big around here and they were in Gloucester NSW before I left there. I’m afraid I always reach the gluttony stage and being a bottomless pit I tend to help out others who can’t quite manage their own servings. To my understanding high tea is very definitely British dating back into 1800s and possibly even earlier. Always in the afternoon around 3 or 4 and it was originally a meal. The name high was because people either ate standing or on high stools. Where the fine china and petit cakes and sandwiches came from I don’t know but probably a commercial thing

  13. TanGental

    Oh yes but that’s posh to add sweaty cheese. Just white bread butter and cucumber slices, crusts cut off and sandwiches cut into 4 triangles. Guaranteed to make both my grannies belch like a blocked drain unblocking. Much fun for the Archaeologist and me.

  14. TanGental

    Yes spaghetti was tinned in n orange sauce that was meant to be tomato but tasted of the ti n’s lining. A real treat was when they added small sausages.

  15. Rowena Post author

    Had to laugh at the belching grannies. I remember my Mum buying burpless cucumbers as a child. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Will have to give them a try. Masterchef is inspiring as to such great culinary heights, it’s inevitable that we fall in a screaming heap and take our efforts with us.

  16. Rowena Post author

    I must admit that I finished a few “extras” myself. Of course, I couldn’t let such scrumptious morsels go to waste. Then, my back started playing up over the weekend and of course, that terrible prospect of “diet” comes to mind.It can be such a cruel world!

  17. Rowena Post author

    My grandfather camne from South Australia…Hahndorf. He was a Lutheran Pastor and moved to QLD to his first parish.

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