Remember in Tea part 1 I mentioned where the sport of Afternoon Tea originated? Yes, of course you do! This week I am going to expand on all things afternoon tea related*. Afternoon tea is one of my favourite sports. The mere fact that cake is involved is enough to hook me in. Add into the mix delicious tea and maybe a glass of something fizzy and I’m in! A lovely way to spend an afternoon with friends and family to celebrate a special day or just to simply enjoy the experience.
Afternoon tea, in many places, is now a complete experience rather than just a cuppa and a sandwich. It is currently such a fashionable pastime that many places who create specialist afternoon tea must be booked months and months in advance to secure a table.
Where Did All This Scrumptiousness Come From??
In the early 1800’s the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, friend of Queen Victoria, felt a little hungry in the late afternoon. Not starving hungry so as to need a full meal, just a little peckish. A pot of tea and a sandwich around 4 o clock was the solution to satisfy Anna till dinner time around 8pm.
During the summer months Anna invited friends to join her for Tea, Sandwiches and a stroll around the grounds of Woburn Abbey where she lived. Very soon, this became such a popular event that many of the other important society ladies copied her and so the sport of taking afternoon tea and afternoon tea parties was born.
To go with this new fashion for Afternoon tea, fashion took a new turn in the late 1800’s early 1900’s. Dressing for tea became a very important part of the afternoon tea performance. Ladies would wear sumptuous gowns, long gloves, carry elaborate parasols to stroll around gardens and generally dress to impress. The men of the time had noticed these ladies gatherings, all dressed most attractively and so afternoon tea became an acceptable event for meeting.
Mariano Fortuny, a Spanish born designer, was working from Venice with his wife a dressmaker. He created a dress that became the classic tea dress. Inspired by the classic Greek column dress, Mariano created a dress of finely pleated silk weighed down with many beads so the dress held it’s shape and flowed with the body.
What To Serve At Afternoon Tea??
Traditionally afternoon tea was just sandwiches. Then came the addition of scones followed by small cakes. As the fashion grew and grew, it became an event to serve more and more elaborate pastries and sweets. I think the reason I am such a fan of afternoon tea is that cake is always involved!
Get out your best 3 tier cake stand. The bottom layer is for the Sandwiches. Crustless, finger cut light bread with light fillings such as cucumber, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise are perfect. One of each choice per person is fine.
Layer number two is for your scones, jam, butter and clotted cream. The debate rages on; jam on first or butter? For me, if I was having butter (which I don’t usually, I like jam and cream on their own) I would put the butter on first. You?? Just one scone per person is necessary.
Layer number three (the best bit!) is for the cakes. Here, anything goes as long as the cakes are individual and delicious. Two cakes per person is perfect.
Lest we forget! The tea! Traditionally Darjeeling was the tea of choice. An ideal brewing time for the tea is 3 – 6 minutes. If left any longer the delicate flavours of the tea can be damaged.
Milk in first or not?? There is no difinitive set procedure. If you pour the tea in first or your tea is poured for you this makes it easier to add the correct amount of milk to your own taste.
Just to help you along if you are thinking of creating your own afternoon tea party, here are a few recipes that are a mix of traditional and contemporary.
Find the recipe for these delicious Lemony, Crab & Cucumber Sandwiches HERE
Find the recipe for classic Scones HERE
Find the recipe for these contemporary cake lollipops HERE
On my Really Useful Pinterest Board you will find lots of reviews of afternoon teas around the world including London, Paris & Hong Kong.
Turn your special occasion into a special day with an afternoon tea party. However you decide to have your afternoon tea, traditional or contemporary it will always be a memorable event. Enjoy!