The Afternoon Tea is quintessentially English, and yet tea itself was a latecomer to Great Britain. Drinking tea dates back as far as the third millennium BC in China and yet it was in the mid-17th century that the delights of a good brew first made an appearance in England. The seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, introduced the afternoon snacking practice itself to the country in 1840.
It became custom due to the duchess's hunger around 4pm each afternoon. Anna asked that she be provided with a tray of tea, bread & butter and cake, to settle her hunger until the evening meal 4 hours later. Enjoying her afternoon snacks started as a solitary activity, but soon she was inviting friends to join her and a pause for tea grew into a truly sociable event!
Today a real afternoon tea consists of scones with clotted cream and jam, cakes and pastries and a selection of freshly made sandwiches. Any good tea room will serve its own variation on this, with different areas of the country having their own additions. For example, the Devonshire Cream Tea includes real Devon clotted cream and favours sweet tea.
Traditionally an afternoon tea should be served on bone china, though this is quite a rare practice in the UK's cafes and restaurants. An ornate silver tea pot is another popular addition, but it's the quality tea and freshly prepared food that has most important!
Though the English afternoon tea is rarely enjoyed in the home anymore, it has become a true favourite with local and international tourists. The London afternoon teas of Harrods and the Ritz are most well known venues in which to experience this Great British tradition, though menus in London are notoriously expensive.
For those looking to try an afternoon tea, there are numerous tea rooms up and down the country which, may be lesser-known but, are much more affordable. The UK has a variety of quaint holiday destinations to choose from; whether you choose a stay in the villages of Yorkshire or the coastal resorts of the South Coast, a tea menu is never far away.
Don't forget, hundreds of years ago ‘everything’ would ‘stop for tea'! Spoiling yourself with an afternoon tea is a great way to break for a moment and unwind. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, the ceremony of having an old English tea is a must-try.
God's Providence House is a traditional, family-run, tearoom and licensed restaurant based in Newport, Isle of Wight. Serving a selection of delicious dishes; enjoy a light lunch, a freshly prepared afternoon tea or a hearty main meal. The Sunday roasts are worth a try too.