Icing on a dream cake

Hunter local Kerryl (Kez) Hiscox always wanted to open a traditional high tea house.
Now her wishes have come true.

My husband Michael and I were talking about how life is too short not to pursue your dreams: it was at a time when he’d fallen severely ill and, for a while, things were on a knife’s edge. We made a pact that if Michael recovered, I would go ahead and open the traditional high tea house I had been dreaming about for so long.

“And here we are,” says Kez with a huge smile on her face about to pour a cup of Gorgeous Geisha, her smooth, sweet and oh so creamy Sencha green tea.

After more than 24 years as a Critical Care Nurse, Kez opened High Tea on the Hunter in the centre of Morpeth in January 2021. A self-confessed lover of all things vintage, a bug she caught from her Shelley crockery collecting parents, she has lovingly set the stage for her luxurious High Tea experiences with an eclectic collection of antique china on charmingly laid tables, complete with fresh roses in crystal vases, embroidered tablecloths and even table bells you will never need to use because her service is as warm and welcoming as it is impeccable and attentive.

“Before we opened, I spent a lot of time on Buy Swap Sell. Everything in here is pre-loved,” Kez laughs. Everything but the freshly baked, homemade sweet and savoury treats that is.

Kez’s Traditional High Tea menu is so sumptuous, we recommend setting aside a couple of hours to fully relish it all. Bring the girls for a bridal shower, celebrate a birthday, or simply decide you deserve it. You will start with savoury bites – think gourmet sausage rolls, prosciutto, feta and roast tomato flatbread, zucchini slice and an assortment of morish traditional finger sandwiches – followed by mouth-watering scones served with luscious, locally made strawberry jam and clotted cream. Next up are exquisite petit fours, so delicately crafted they could be mistaken for jewellery. But go ahead, take a bite – they are as delectable as they are beautiful.

Baking everything from white chocolate and pistachio eclairs, to passionfruit and lemon meringues and vegan, lactose and gluten free delights, Kez and her patisserie chef Stacey Cleaver start their days at the crack of dawn kneading, baking and decorating away on a gloriously delicious selection of goodies.

The grand finale comes in the form of a fruity mango sorbet, served in style, in charming vintage crystal. The Traditional High Tea experience includes bottomless cups of tea and plunger coffee. From the already mentioned Gorgeous Geisha, and French Earl Grey, to a complex, spicy Chai, China Jasmine, or a traditional English Breakfast tea – tea lovers and novices alike will be spoilt for choice. Alternatively, you can opt for the High Tea Indulgence which comes with a glass of alcohol-free champagne.

If you need a bit of pampering but don’t have a couple of hours, then the Devonshire Tea has your name on it. With homemade scones, a plate of finger-licking sandwiches and your choice of specialty tea or plunger coffee, it is a perfect pick-me-upper on a weekday or for a catch up with a friend.

Kez loves to try new things and has plans for a Parisian inspired tea experience (we can’t wait for those buttery croissants to be served with either jam and cream or ham and cheese), and a special menu with a more masculine touch for Father’s Day. A Christmas in July inspired special is also on the cards.

Kez is over the moon that she is living her dream and working alongside daughter Maddie and her partner Amelia who might one day take over the biz. “Michael and our son Logan also help out. It’s the icing on my dream cake.”

But keeping High Tea on the Hunter going has also come with challenges. Lockdowns have been difficult to get through and Kez has been called upon to work as a Critical Care Nurse again to help address staff shortages during the pandemic. But even with too little sleep and too much to do, her love for high tea is irresistibly infectious and a visit to High Tea on the Hunter is like a wonderfully long, affectionate hug that calms the mind and warms the soul.

What are you waiting for? Get the girls and make a booking!

High Tea on the Hunter, 119 Swan Street, Morpeth, open Thursday to Sunday 10am – 4pm, highteaonthehunter.com

Win a High Tea Experience for two!
Scan the QR code to win a Traditional High Tea experience for yourself and a friend at High Tea on the Hunter. Valued at $60/person, it’s sumptuous, it’s fun and a feast for all the senses. The winner will be drawn on 26 May 2022.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Ruby Pinter, Jayde Abdilla and Frank Schulze