Few can resist the temptations of perfectly decorated sweet treats and finger sandwiches, all arranged flawlessly on an elegant three tier silver stand. These days, afternoon tea is often seen as an indulgence for special occasions or if you just want to allow yourself a pleasure in life. This hasn’t always been the case however, as the custom of afternoon tea was once an essential daily undertaking.
It came about during the Georgian period sometime from 1714 to 1830, as a small meal between lunch and dinner. The story goes that the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russel, began a daily afternoon ritual of having sliced sandwiches, small cakes along with some tea in her room by herself. Being a socially active person, she eventually began to invite others to join her. The popularity of this ritual soon started to spread and became fashionable both amongst the upper and lower classes of the British society.
Over the next few decades, the custom of afternoon tea became firmly established as a part of the British culture. However as modern times approached, lives of the British became busier and busier, so that afternoon tea began to be seen as a refined practice reserved for those with more leisurely lifestyles.
Why is afternoon tea so popular in Britain today? Apart from the British love of tradition, the afternoon tea menu itself speaks volumes in this regard. Delicate finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, sweet pastries, cakes, countless types of tea, coffee and even Champagne are on offer on the modern afternoon tea menu. Consisting of a delectable selection of fine foods and beverages, afternoon tea today is much more than having a mid-afternoon snack to get through to dinner time.
Then there is the social side of afternoon tea. What could be better than enjoying delicious treats and a cup tea with your friends and loved ones? Appealing to all ages, and events such as a special birthday, anniversary, or a day out with the girls can be celebrated with afternoon tea.
Finally, let’s not forget that the art of baking has made a comeback in our hearts and our kitchens. With successful shows such as the Great British Bake Off and countless other celebrity baking shows and books, baked goodies such as those featured in the afternoon tea menu is seen as fashionable as well as being utterly delicious.