It’s afternoon tea week and I couldn’t let the occasion go by without celebrating this great British tradition! Especially since afternoon teas are one of the specialist wedding and event catering options I offer, alongside luxe grazing tables and dessert tables. But what IS afternoon tea? Where does it come from, and is it the same as a ‘high tea’? Here are some fun facts, as well as a few ideas for what to serve.
It might surprise you that this quintessentially British custom only dates back to the nineteenth century. It is thought to have originated with Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford. At the time, the upper classes ate two main meals a day – breakfast and dinner, which could be served as late as 9pm. To stave off the hunger pangs, the duchess had a habit of ordering that a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be served in her boudoir around 4pm. Apparently she was so pleased with it, that she began to invite friends (including Queen Victoria) to join her. Eventually, the custom caught on amongst fashionable society, and turned into a full-blown social event. As tea itself became cheaper, the tradition filtered down into the middle classes, reaching its height of popularity in the 1920s.
Today, afternoon tea is not a daily occurrence, but rather reserved as a special treat. Not to be confused with the high tea (a more substantial afternoon meal originating from the working class), it usually consists of finger sandwiches, scones, and a selection of cakes. They are served with loose-leaf tea, or champagne (called Royal Tea).
Afternoon tea makes for a delightful alternative to traditional wedding catering, and brings a touch of English decadence to any event. My afternoon tea menus feature all the classics, including buttery scones with clotted cream and berry preserves, and every delicious treat is made in-house. The service includes hire of crockery, cutlery, and platters from our carefully curated collection. As always, I love to feature a mix of heirloom and contemporary pieces to create a timeless feel.
Interested in serving afternoon tea at your event? Get in touch and I’ll be happy to create a delectable spread just for you!
Top image by: Helen Warner Photography