Perhaps one of the most beloved British rituals (at least for us ladies) would be Afternoon Tea. We’d probably even have to be restrained from going all out and dressing ourselves in dainty little dresses and fancy fascinators. That’s right, drinking tea makes us ladylike in more ways than one. A true lady will also know about the rich history and culture that makes Afternoon Tea the special social event it is today.
First Sip of Afternoon Tea
Send your prayers of thanks to the Duchess of Bedford of the Victorian Era for bringing us Afternoon Tea. Since lunch was pretty much non-existent at that time and dinner was served at eight o’ clock in the evening, grumbling tummies were commonly suffered by upper class Britons of the 19th century. The Duchess of Bedford then created “afternoon tea” as a small meal taken in between lunch and dinner. This light meal consisted of tea with sandwiches or cake. Eventually, the Duchess shared this mid-day break with her friends.
Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea
The two meals are in reference to social status and believe it or not, the height of a table. Traditionally, the upper classes would enjoy their “low” or “afternoon tea” around four o’ clock. The middle and lower classes however, would take a more substantial “high tea,” usually consisting of bread and meat, taken at five or six o’ clock to replace dinner.
High Tea was also served on a table as opposed to Afternoon Tea which was taken while being seated in a low sofa with a low table.
20th Century Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea which is served in Great Britain today is often referred to as High Tea in other parts of the world. In hotels, the traditional Afternoon Tea menu would consist of a selection of finger sandwiches, (salmon with cream cheese, egg with cress, cucumber, ham with mustard) scones with clotted cream and preserves, a variety of pastries and your tea preference (ex. Earl Grey, Assam, and Darjeeling).
Some hotels would serve Afternoon Tea with a twist. At the Sanderson Hotel in London, Afternoon tea is a whimsical meal that will tickle your imagination. They have created a Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea where menus are hidden inside a vintage book, teapots are adorned with drawings of kings and queens and sugar cubes are contained in a magical music box.