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August 9th to August 15th is Afternoon Tea Week, a week long celebration of the great British tradition. But where and when did the enjoyable and quintessential custom come from?
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
Afternoon Tea Origins
We have Anna Maria Russell the 7th Duchess of Bedford to thank for inventing and popularising afternoon tea in around 1840. At this time people ate two meals a day, breakfast and a dinner much later in the day. Tea was also becoming a more and more popular beverage, especially amongst the upper classes.
The Duchess complained of having “that sinking feeling” during the afternoon between meals and requested tea, buttered bread and cakes be brought to her chamber. Thus the magnificent tradition was born!
Eventually she invited other ladies to join her and needing very little excuse to drink more tea the tradition spread amongst the upper classes! Later Queen Victoria adopted the tradition and it became a more widespread habit of the nation.
Did you know?
- Afternoon Tea and High Tea are two separate traditions. Afternoon tea is usually between 2pm and 5pm, the most popular time for it is 4pm. High Tea is served between 5pm and was traditionally a meal for the “working man” and lower classes.
- Afternoon tea should be “taken” and not “eaten”.
- Afternoon tea napkins are traditionally 12 inches square.
- When the British settled in Chile afternoon tea caught on there and was given its own native twist. Local produce such as meat and avocados were added to the spread.
How you can celebrate
If you want to join in the fun and celebrate Afternoon Tea Week why not host an afternoon tea party of your own? You could bake some cakes, whip up a selection of finger sandwiches. Typically cheese and cucumber, egg and cress and salmon are most associated with afternoon tea but you could use any fillings you like! And of course…. Don’t forget to get out your fanciest china and brew up a pot of tea! Explore a world of exciting tea options here.