Afternoon tea, that most quintessential of English traditions is actually a relatively new tradition, surprisingly.
While the practise of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China and was popularised in England in the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife, the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza, the idea of 'afternoon tea' first emerged in the mid-19th century.
Anna, the seventh duchess of Bedford, introduced Afternoon Tea in England in the year 1840. The Duchess would get hungry in the afternoon at around four. The evening meal was served fashionably late at 8pm in her home, thereby leaving a long gap between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked to bring a tray of tea, bread and butter (sometime earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had the idea to put a filling between two slices of bread) and cake to her room late in the afternoon. This became her routine and she started inviting friends to join her.
By the 1880’s, this break for tea had become a social event in fashion terms. Women of the upper classes would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea, which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o'clock.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches of course), scones that are served with clotted cream and preserves. Tea grown in India, or Ceylon, is poured into delicate bone china cups from silver tea pots. Nowadays, however, afternoon tea in the average suburban home is likely to be just a biscuit or small slice of cake and a mug of tea, typically made using a teabag. Sacrilege!
Now talking of a proper Afternoon Tea, whizz over to our Afternoon Tea selection and see what you fancy, there is so much to choose from! Or why not be a devil and customise your Afternoon Tea? Just like this client did with a Traditional Afternoon Tea with 6 scrumptious cupcakes?
Credit: adapted from an article written by Ben Johnson for https://www.historic-uk.com/