"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea" Henry James
I say it all the time Afternoon tea is my absolute favourite past time. Every special occasion, or even just every day, I don't mind. It is the most quintessential English custom and you may be surprised to learn it is a fairly new tradition.
I have written many blogs talking about the history of tea, so I've probably already told you how it was made popular in England during the 1660's by King Charles II and his wife Catherine De Braganza, but it was not until the mid 19th century that the concept of "afternoon tea" was born.
Afternoon tea was derived in England by Anna, who was the 7th Duchess of Bedford in 1840. Anna found she would become hungry around 4pm, but her evening meal was served fashionably late in her household, around 8pm so there was a long period of time between lunch and dinner. This prompted Anna to ask that a tray of tea, bread & butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This quickly became a habit and she began inviting friends to join her.
You could say Anna was a Victorian influencer as it became fashionable to pause for tea in the afternoon and this became a social event. Upper-class and society women in the 1880's would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was normally served in the drawing room between 4 and 5 pm.
Traditionally afternoon tea is a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, cakes and pastries. Tea grown in India poured from a silver tea pot into delicate bone China cups. Very grand and what we all aim to aspire to.
Nowadays, in the average home afternoon tea is likely to be just a biscuit or a small cake with a mug of tea usually brewed from a tea bag. I know we can do better than that, pictured above is my Constance design applied to a fine bone China tea set available to buy from my website. I'm serving black tea and tea bread.