Afternoon Tea – Then and Now
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
– Henry James
Afternoon Tea is a tradition that Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, introduced as a social occasion in the 1800’s. However, back then, it wasn’t the big affair that Afternoon Tea traditionally is now but just a snack to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner.
Throughout the 1800’s, the ladies of the upper-class developed this tradition into what it is today – an occasion to get all dressed up for! Traditionally, afternoon tea consisted of a selection of sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries and, of course, lots of tea.
These days, afternoon teas can be quite a lavish affair and are often a popular outing for celebrations like Mother’s Day and birthdays. Often, they will include the traditional sandwiches, scones and tea but may also be accompanied by canapes and champagne. Afternoon tea is usually served on a cake stand and with fine china which is something that is quintessentially British.
Today, afternoon tea is a meal in itself which in a way replaces lunch. This is very different to when afternoon tea started, which was just a way to fill a hunger void. It is usually very common that the tea might be more than the standard English breakfast tea but also may include herbal and fruit teas. It is now a fashionable meal that can be served anywhere from your home to hotels to spas!
Some of our Italian Aroma clients serve up some beautiful afternoon teas. These include Mad Hatters, Loch House, Duckbay Marina, Ingram Wynd and Tribeca, to name a few. All of these places serve afternoon tea in a very different way, showcasing an occasion that anyone can enjoy!
History of tea
Tea has been around for a long time but how did it become the UK’s hot drink of choice? Tea first became popular in the UK during 1600’s by King Charles II and his wife Catherine, a Portuguese Princess. She was particularly fond of the drink and introduced it to the wealthy upper-class of the time. Tea was expensive because Britain and China didn’t trade at this time. It wasn’t until the early 18th century that the two countries began trading more regularly and that India started growing tea, that tea became more of a daily drink in Britain.
As tea was becoming more popular in the UK, the government started adding tax to the import of tea. It wasn’t until the late 1700’s, when the high tax on tea was cut, that tea became more affordable and therefore even more popular with the masses.