If you’re wondering what to do for this year’s Mother’s Day, why not say thanks to your mum with a nice Afternoon Tea!
Tea, cakes and sandwiches are a must – the teapot warmer purely a matter of taste
What is Afternoon Tea?
Afternoon Tea was introduced in the 1840s by high-society ladies to bridge the time between a late breakfast and dinner. The practice developed from a private social event to a more formal scale when Queen Victoria started giving large tea receptions with up to 200 guests. The practice soon became well-known throughout all levels of society and soon everyone took tea in the afternoons.
What is part of a traditional Afternoon Tea?
A typical menu includes both sweets and savouries. Sandwiches are traditionally ‘finger’-sized and have their crusts removed. Some classic recipes include fillings with cucumber, smoked salmon, roast beef, sliced ham or egg mayonnaise with watercress. Add pastries, cakes and of course a wide range of teas – Darjeeling, Assam and Earl Grey are most commonly served – and you have a perfect Afternoon Tea.
While we wouldn’t want to miss them today, scones, served with jam and clotted cream, are actually not a traditional feature of the meal. They were only introduced to the menu in the early 20th century.
Many hotels and tea shops offer a special tea menu in the afternoon, but you can just as easily recreate it at home. All it really takes is a steaming pot of your favourite tea, some snacks and good company.
When to take it?
Traditionally, afternoon tea was taken around 4 pm. In the 19th century the wealthy upper class served it just before taking their daily stroll in the park. Working class families, with very different daily schedules and budgets, created their own version of Afternoon Tea. The tea was served after work, which was usually not finished until 6pm. The food that came with it was more filling and replaced dinner.
Time for Tea? A small dictionary of tea hours
For tea lovers, any time of the day is tea time, but here are some traditional hours to serve tea during the day:
Early Morning Tea: Tea is a great pick-me-up on sleepy mornings. If you want to surprise your mum with a particularly cosy breakfast, why not take it to her bed?
Cream Tea: A simpler version of Afternoon Tea, where only scones with clotted cream and jam, or cake and shortbread are served.
Low Tea: This form of Afternoon Tea was traditionally taken in the drawing room at a low tea table, usually between 3 and 5 pm. Both sweet pastries and savouries can be enjoyed with this tea.
As a sidenote: A German native speaker, I grew up hearing this form of Afternoon Tea referred to as “five-o’clock tea” – an English expression that’s not even used in the UK!
Royal Tea: For this Afternoon Tea you can indulge in a glass of Champagne or Sherry along with your tea.
High Tea: Traditionally served at the dinner table (‘high table’) between 6 and 7 pm, this Afternoon Tea includes more food and can serve as an early dinner.
Bedtime Tea: If you want to have one last cuppa before going to sleep, highly caffeinated black tea might not be the best idea. Chamomile, lavender or lemon balm tea on the other hand are great for relaxing!
Nowadays most of us are too busy to include a regular afternoon break with cakes and sandwiches in our daily lives. Having Afternoon Tea has become a special treat – what better way to spoil your mum than with this lovely, long-standing English tradition?
Want to find out more about the history Afternoon Tea and where to take it? Have a look at: https://afternoontea.co.uk/