[via Let them eat cake!]
After years of coffee and cafe supremacy over the more humble cup of tea and cake shop, it seems that Afternoon Tea is firmly back in fashion. More and more hotels and restaurants now offer an “Afternoon Tea” service, and many people are even replacing the ubiquitous wedding buffet with an afternoon tea. Far removed from dusty Church meetings and retirement homes, this new style of Afternoon Tea reclaims it’s history, being both beautifully smart and elegant while keeping that lovely sense of nostalgia.
[via This is Glamorous]
Tradition has it that “Afternoon Tea” as such was initiated by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who complained of “having that sinking feeling” in the afternoon (at the time when the dinner meal was not started until 8pm at least). She found that this was relieved by a light meal of sandwiches or snacks and tea (usually Darjeeling), and this was such a sensible and sociable idea that the trend rapidly caught on. Soon anybody who was anybody in fashionable London was enjoying Afternoon Tea with friends in their drawing rooms.
Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford (3 September 1783 – 3 July 1857)
So, over 150 years on, what does an “Afternoon Tea” service look like at a fine hotel or restaurant? Well, as far as the food goes it is usually served on a 3 layer stand or trolley, and the layers contain (in order from bottom to top)…
1. A selection of dainty finger sandwiches
Popular selections of sandwiches include cucumber, egg & cress, some kind of chicken (coronation chicken etc.) and smoked salmon. Crusts off of course!
On the second (middle) layer of the stand you will usually find…
2. Scones with Jam and Cream
Clotted cream that is.
A quick aside… Whether you should put the cream on first then a dollop of jam, or the jam on first and a dollop of cream is commonly known as the Cornwall/Devon question. The former county tends towards jam first then cream, while Devon favours cream then jam. As noted last year by Susan Smillie in the Guardian, at last… a fight that’s worth fighting for! Which side are you on?
3. Miniature Cakes and Fresh Pastries
The final (top) layer of the tray traditionally holds a small selection of in-house made pastries and other mini delicacies.
But of course one of the most important parts of the ritual is the tea itself. As noted above the Duchess of Bedford favoured Darjeeling, but at many hotels now the choice is enormous… ranging from the more traditional blends to organic and herbal infusions.
And speaking of tea, here are a few quick etiquette tips (extracted and paraphrased from the Palm Court, Langham London’s guide) …
- Contrary to popular opinion your pinkie finger should NOT be raised when holding your cup, but should curve back gently towards your wrist
- Dunking of any food in your cup of tea is a terrible social faux-pas (luckily I don’t think this includes super wines in the comfort of your own home!)
- When serving lemon with tea it is correct to serve slices and not wedges (presumably so as to not inadvertently squeeze lemon juice in your eye when retrieving said lemon from your cup). Also, be careful not to add milk AND lemon to your tea (or your clotted cream won’t be the only thing with curdles in it)
So far we have featured the delicious, romantic Valentine’s Blend of black tea, chocolate & rosebuds in a small selection of our Valentine’s Day Gifts:
Tea for Two Valentine’s Gift featuring Valentine’s Blend + an assortment of 3 other Harney & Sons teas (note: tea cup & saucer not included – they just looked pretty!)
Classic Valentine Gift Box featuring the Valentine’s blend.
And we have included some healthy Canton Green Tea Sachets in our His ‘n Hers Valentine’s gift…
As well as the lovely classic tin of Darjeeling in our feminine “Roses are Red” Valentine’s gift basket…
These are only the first of a whole new year full of gift baskets and gift boxes that we hope to add to our website featuring delicious Harney & Sons Teas.
So next time you need that perfect gift for a friend or loved one, keep these lovely products in mind.
p.s. And even after the tea has been drunk… the tins are so gorgeous they make the perfect place for some soft pink roses!