British Traditions; The Afternoon Tea

In honour of the Jubilee celebrations we’re talking Afternoon Tea all this week. We’ll be sipping tea with different sets, all fictitious of course, so I hope you’ll join in with pinkies raised. Before then however, here is a brief history of one of the finest English traditions.

Of all the traditions of the British, the Afternoon Tea is one of the most fascinating. So quintessentially British, right from its inception in the 1800s, it is hard to think of Britishness without having the Afternoon Tea in mind. It was the practise in society that the upper echelons and the lower class had different meal times; with the Upper Class having lunch at noon and dinner at 8pm and the lower class, which often consist of the servants of the Upper Class, dined an hour earlier before serving their employers…Downton Abbey anyone? In between meal times Afternoon tea was served, normally between the hours of 2 and 5pm and this was meant as a tide over until dinner.

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford is credited with founding the tradition. She was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria. At the time, there were no meals between lunch and dinner, which meant going for several hours without food. This made the workforce particularly unproductive and everyone else generally, hungry. The Duchess soon found that a light meal of tea served with pastries or sandwiches, filled the hunger pang before dinner. Soon enough the practise caught on and it became a tradition spread across the land. Although most of us are too busy with the general hustle of everyday life to spend time at tea and the Afternoon Tea has become something reserved for special occasions or the weekend, the tradition still remains as does the Britishness of it all.

The best place for Afternoon Tea in London, call me biased because I am, is Claridges Hotel in Mayfair. From the service to the ambience, everything is resplendent and it is a treat to be had at least once in your lifetime. Normally served in the Foyer surrounded by charming flower arrangements, ever attentive and deferential wait staff, with soft beautiful music in the background, you’d be forgiven to never want to leave. The service is impeccable with a choice of 40 teas, (who knew there were even that many types of teas?) or champagne, delicious crust free finger sandwiches, fine selection of sweet pastries, freshly baked raisin and apple scones with Marco Polo jelly and cornish clotted cream…everything about it is especially special and so well done. Held to the highest esteem and down to the very finest detail, really what is not to love? They also serve Afternoon Teas for special occasions; the Jubilee Afternoon Tea 2nd-6th of June, Wimbledon Afternoon Tea; 23rd June to 8th of July…one simply cannot go wrong at Claridges so treat yourself to some good old British Tradition and stop over.

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