Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anyone For Tea?

Last May, whilst in London I noticed a renaissance amongst my friends, for the habit of taking afternoon tea, not just a mug of tea and a few biscuits, but proper afternoon tea, served from a tea service, into porcelain cups and saucers, and cakes, buns and sandwiches to eat. I was delighted,  I love afternoon tea, my Grandmother religiously served it every afternoon at four, I even had my own toy tea service and tea set to play with as a child.

The custom of drinking tea originated in England, when Catherine Braganza married Charles II, in 1661 and brought the practice of drinking tea in the afternoon with her from Portugal.

Anna Russell, The Duchess of Bedford, 1783-1857, was the creator of afternoon tea,  During the 18th century, dinner came to be served later and later in the day until by the early 1800s, the normal time was between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. An extra meal called luncheon had been created to fill the midday gap between breakfast and dinner, but as this new meal was very light, the long afternoon with no refreshment at all left people feeling hungry. She found a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. The Duchess found taking an afternoon snack to be such a perfect refreshment that she soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon tea quickly became an established and convivial repast in many middle and upper class households.  

High Tea is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm and 6pm. It would substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal. It is now largely replaced by a later evening meal.
High Tea would usually consist of cold meats, eggs or fish, cakes and sandwiches. In a family, it tends to be less formal and is an informal snack (featuring sandwiches, biscuits, pastry, fruit and the like) or else it is the main evening meal.
On farms or other working class environments, high tea would be the traditional, substantial meal eaten by the workers immediately after nightfall, and would combine afternoon tea with the main evening meal.

An Elaborate tea caddy, tea was so valuable, it had to be kept under lock and key

Afternoon tea was traditionally served in the parlour and in summer outside on the lawn, served on low tables, that's why afternoon tea is also known as low tea.


Britain has thousands of establishments specialising in afternoon tea, and with the renaissance many people are serving it in their homes, blowing the dust off their grandmothers china, and scouring antiques fairs for tea services, cake stands and other teatime paraphernalia.

There are many books for afternoon tea lovers, tea room's of Britain guide books, history of tea books and of course books on cooking delicious cakes, buns and pastries.

All Books Available at Amazon


  1. Lovely, Dash! Some of the larger hotels in NY do tea, but not many these days. A lovely custom.

  2. I love afternoon tea in specialist tea rooms, or patisserie shops...but just with other women.
    It makes such a civilised break from the rest of the day.
    Lovely photographs...thank you.

  3. Being such a tea fan, this is my kind of post! Love it!!

  4. What a beautiful blog you have Dash! I've just found you via Kerry @ A Tranquil Townhouse, and I'm so glad I did. I'll be setting aside some serious time to read through your gorgeous posts, somehow I think I'll be visiting often!
    Have a great day,
    Kerri x

  5. Ahh, tea is indeed lovely. I had a delightful one at Fortnum Mason a while back . . . And at home I reserve my favorite china cup for my simple tea.

  6. I love tea! My last few years in Dublin, I'd treat myself to afternoon tea at The Shelborne. So decadent and innocent at the same time. I really miss that. Thanks for the lovely reminders :-)

  7. Dash - I absolutely love the first image -beautiful. I love the idea of taking tea in the afternoon (as opposed to the hundreds of cups I drink every day) but I have a small problem - I'm not really a 'cake' girl and to be able to partake of 'tea' it means dinner must be foregone or at the very least reduced to a very small mouthful & I just can't bring myself to do it!!! I do have really fond memories of nursery teas when my children were small though...lovely post & images, have a great weekend x

  8. I love afternoon tea but since joining WW I have now curbed my habit of baking scones and cakes. One day it will be resumed.

    I've never been to the London Ritz or Waldorf for tea but I have been to tea at the Savoy. It was glorious and something that everyone should do at least once in their life. When we went to New York a few years ago we splashed out and stayed at the Ritz Carlton and of course had afternoon tea a few times. I think the Savoy did it a tad better actually - although the NY Ritz had a harpist as opposed to the Savoy having a pianist.

  9. Ah, tea time is such an elegant affair! I love my tea, as well. Thank you for inspiring me with such beautiful images.

  10. Great blog, Dash. I found you through A Taste of Garlic...congrats on the review. As an American, afternoon tea is a mystery so thank you so much for the history lesson. I remember staying at a fine hotel in the US when I was a child and happening upon afternoon tea in the grand salon. I was entranced. I was only 12 but I distinctly remember thinking..."what a civilized tradition". Of course, the piles of beautiful cakes and pastries helped!

  11. I love my tea. So much that unfortunately have to take some of it decaffinated.
    Would adore to own a tea service like the silver one with the heat underneath in the second picture. Anyone know whether you can still get anything cheaply like this?


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