When you picture the term ‘afternoon tea’, you probably picture a group of ladies whiling away the day sipping Earl Grey or Darjeeling from bone china cups, whilst modestly nibbling on cucumber sandwiches and scones, and indiscreetly gossiping.
As to the origin of our favourite tea tradition, all sources agree that Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) gets the credit.
The afternoon tea was invented in the 1840s because the Duchess of Bedford was hungry. At the time, it was custom to eat dinner in the afternoon followed by a light supper late in the evening. Among the upper class the dinner hour started creeping later and later, replaced by a light lunch around midday. It left a considerable gap between the light lunch and the more considerable evening meal. One day The Duchess asked the cooks to prepare some sandwiches for her in the late afternoon which she happily consumed with a cup of tea, or two.
The custom was quickly adopted by the upper class in general, and later filtered down the social ladder. Today many establishments serve afternoon tea, with varying degrees of ceremony and culinary complexity.
Afternoon Tea selection available at Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel & Spa
It is currently one of the most popular attractions at Blas Restaurant within Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel & Spa, serving on average 220 people per week.
What all providers of afternoon tea can agree on, the main food expected to be consumed is scones with jam and clotted cream. This is often known as a cream tea, and originates from Devon and Cornwall.
So why has this activity become so popular again over 150 years later?
Over the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in British traditions, particularly in our food and drink. The Great British Bake Off is a good example of this. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Olympics helped increase our sense of national pride.
Afternoon tea isn’t an everyday activity, it is an opportunity to indulge and take time to relax with friends and family. For visitors to the UK, it is a novelty and a chance to try something different – many visitors believe that the British still do this daily!
In recent years, we have seen chefs get more adventurous with their afternoon tea menus. Most stick to the traditional framework of sandwiches, scones and cakes, but let their culinary skills go to town with delicious new sandwich fillings, flavoured breads and artistic flair to create delicate deserts and sweet treats.
We’re looking forward to celebrating ‘Afternoon Tea Month’ during October 2015 and will be producing a different themed selection each week. Watch this space for further details…
Afternoon tea available at Blas Restaurant at Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel & Spa