Afternoon Tea

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea

What could be more fine and British than a satisfying afternoon tea? Very little. With it’s assortment of differing, dainty sandwiches, array of fine teas and delectable, petite, baked treats, what started as a very British affair in the mid 1840’s has reached the populus around the globe, to become a true treat for those seeking refreshment in the latter part of the long afternoon.

The Duchess of Bedford Anna Russell is given the credit for what started as an intrinsically aristocratic affair. Whilst visiting friends at Belvoir Castle, she found herself and the other guests becoming hungry in the latter part of the day, due in part to her hosts penchant for late dinners. She found, a light meal consisting of Darjeeling tea, cakes and sandwiches to be the ideal “pick me up,” to see her through until the evening meal. As more and more guests began to join her, this dainty meal soon gained popularity throughout the social circles of the British upper and middle classes, including Queen Victoria herself, until it found its way into the daily hospitality routine of Londons finest hotels.

Today, it is still served in these fine hotels as well as all over the globe, where a wider variety of items are offered, often focusing on delicacies showcasing their local produce and appealing to their specific clienteles preference in taste. This can be anything from green matcha through the cakes and biscuits of Japan, to high heeled stiletto and luxury hand bag shaped, sugar and confectionary work, highlighting the shopping district of NewYork.

It is a common misconception, that this tradition appeals to women only, and as such the same theme tends to be followed, which predominantly involves the classic tea, sandwiches and cakes combination. However, of late, fashion (and quite rightly gender equality) has dictated that many establishments now serve “Mens Afternoon Tea”, involving the service of high quality ales and minature burgers. So it really does go to show that there is an afternoon tea out there suited to just about everyone.

When we ourselves are providing tea for our distinguished guests however, tradition is the order of the day. And for us personally we feel, the best teas replicate those of the British Royal family of the Edwardian era, which has changed very little, even to this day. It is customary to serve two types of squared sandwiches (crusts removed) with one of each, brown and white, the filling is of personal preference to the establishment, but we believe the classical flavours to be the most popular. This can range from a good homemade pickle and high quality cheddar cheese, to thinly sliced roasted chicken with crisp fresh lettuce, bound in a high quality, well seasoned mayonnaise.

It goes without saying that a high quality first flush Darjeeling should be served alongside, however, a range of teas are always given to accommodate any of your guests specific tastes, or indeed if they prefer a caffeine free alternative. For cakes, scones are a must, with the highest quality jams and Cornish clotted cream, it is of no surprise that these are a firm favourite and a fundamental element to the perfect afternoon tea.

And what better way to finish, than with a traditional Victoria Sponge, named after the very Queen who helped spread this famous afternoon tradition. Any other cakes that are offered, (our personal favourites being traditional english teacakes and beurre noisette madeleines) must always be dainty, and be able to be picked up and eaten with three fingers, or if a cake is so large it needs to be sliced, then a only a fork is used on a small sideplate to consume it. It is customary if you’re the host to always pour the tea for your guests, starting of course with the tea, then adding a slice of lemon, their chosen sweetener (if any) or milk depending on their preference, although never both lemon and milk, as this will cause the beverage to curdle. When stirring to amalgamate the ingredients in your cup, it is never wise to hit the side of the cup but instead gently swirl holding your saucer (with one hand) and the teaspoon (with the other), when finished gently place the spoon on the saucer, behind your teacup, being careful not to chime the teacup like a bell.

But if there is one rule to afternoon tea, that is followed more than any other, it is that there should be no raised pinkie fingers when eating or lifting that cup of tea!