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THE HISTORY OF AFTERNOON TEA IN THE UK: English Afternoon Tea and How It All Started

by Maria Danica Villanueva 03 Apr 2023 0 Comments

The history of English afternoon tea in the UK is a fascinating tale of how a simple habit of drinking tea evolved into a social institution. The origins of afternoon tea can be traced back to the 19th century, during the reign of Queen Victoria. 

How did this afternoon tea tradition started?

It is believed that Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, is responsible for introducing the concept of afternoon tea in England. The story goes that she was hungry between lunch and dinner, and began requesting tea, bread and butter, and cakes to be served in her room. This became a habit, and she soon started inviting friends to join her, turning it into a social event. 

At the time, the upper classes in England had a rigid meal schedule with a light breakfast, a heavy lunch, and a late dinner. The Duchess of Bedford's afternoon tea filled the gap between lunch and dinner, and soon became a fashionable ritual among the wealthy. 

What is a typical British afternoon tea menu?

The menu for afternoon tea typically includes a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and a selection of cakes and pastries. The presentation of the food is just as important as the taste, with tiered cake stands, delicate china, and silverware adding to the elegance of the occasion. 

Afternoon tea in the UK today

Afternoon tea quickly became a symbol of wealth and status in Victorian England, with grand hotels and tea rooms offering their own versions of the ritual. The Ritz Hotel in London, which opened in 1906, is particularly famous for its opulent afternoon tea service, which includes sandwiches, scones, cakes, and champagne. 

Over time, afternoon tea became more accessible to the general public, with tea rooms and cafes offering affordable versions of the ritual. During World War II, the government encouraged the practice of afternoon tea as a way of boosting morale and providing a break from the hardships of wartime. 

Today, afternoon tea remains a popular tradition in the UK, enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is often seen as a special treat or a way to mark a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary. 

Experience afternoon tea with your loved ones

In conclusion, the history of English afternoon tea in the UK is a rich and fascinating story that reflects the changing social norms and traditions of the country. From its origins as a private ritual of the wealthy to its current status as a popular and accessible tradition, afternoon tea continues to be a beloved institution in British culture. 

If you want to experience the elegance and charm of English afternoon tea for yourself, browse our selection of tea and cake hampers. We offer a range of high-quality teas and delicious cakes, perfect for enjoying with friends and family or as a special treat for yourself. Click here to explore our collection and find the perfect afternoon tea experience. 

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