What is Afternoon Tea?
Afternoon Tea is a British tradition of serving a small meal between lunch and dinner. It became popular as an afternoon snack to break up the long time between an early lunch and late dinner. It's not to be confused with Cream Tea or High Tea.
Afternoon Tea first consisted of sandwiches and tea, cake added slightly later on in the 19th Century and then much more recently a scone served with clotted cream and a preserve. It is thought to have started to become popular in the upper classes in the 1840’s. Afternoon Tea in its present form – both how the food is served and where – came about during the 1920’s when it was accepted that women left the home for social engagements.
Photograph courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Afternoon Tea became popular in the early nineteenth century amongst aristocratic women as a social event held in their homes. It became highly fashionable and when Queen Victoria took up the ritual of Afternoon Tea as one her favourite occasions, subsequently it became known as a formal occasion. Large scale tea parties became popular and were known as “tea receptions.”
Tea receptions became major events with as many as 200 guests attending, pageantry, servants, silverware, fine table cloths, fanatic tea cups and rare and expensive teas. Open invitations whereby guests could attend anytime during the event, generally 4-7pm, this led the Afternoon Tea being referred “at homes.”
In London today Afternoon Tea is still very much an occasion celebrated with friends and family. It is commonly served between 1pm and 5:30 at various hotels and mid-afternoon at home. Serving Afternoon Tea at home has experienced a resurgence recently with many companies now providing an at home delivery service. Contact us for more information and your bespoke menu.