Friday, 31 August 2012

Afternoon tea: everything you need to know

Did you know that we as a nation drink 165 million cups of tea a day? That’s 6.5 billion a year (or enough to fill six Olympic sized swimming pools.)

But one type of tea which is proving to be popular at the minute is afternoon tea. A pastime once reserved for the gentry of 19th century England, this was first introduced by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. On her quest to find a snack to fill the void between lunch and dinner, she had begun to order a selection of bread, tea and cakes to her room at around 4 o’clock each day.  Deeming it to be a great idea, her peers soon caught onto this, and before long, afternoon tea was all the rage amongst the aristocracy.

What does a typical afternoon comprise of?

Should you be lucky enough to enjoy this extravagant snack, here is what you’ll be greeted with:
  • A selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches
  • Warm scones with clotted cream and preserves
  • A variety of homemade cakes, scones and pastries
  • A choice of a generous range of delicious teas

A little more about afternoon tea...

Feeling flush?

Today, this traditional treat is enjoyed by people everywhere. But consider this: the world’s most expensive afternoon tea would set you back a cool £500 a head? The plush ‘Platinum Afternoon Tea Tasting Menu comprises luxury ingredients: Da Hong Pao tea, Beluga Caviar, white truffles and chocolate cake complete with gold leaf. And if you’re feeling particularly well-heeled, you’ll even have the chance to sample Hopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee (which would ordinarily cost you £50 a cup)   All of this is complemented nicely by two glasses of Dom PĂ©rignon Champagn – bliss!

But do you think you’d be able to take the perfect afternoon tea? This is how you do it according to the experts:

-                 Put the sugar in first

This is because the sugar will melt before you pour in the cold milk

-                 Milk goes in after the hot tea

This might well go against everything you believe in when it comes to making a cuppa, but if you want to be sipping on the same earl grey as the upper crust, you must always put the milk in after the tea, Historically speaking, back in the 19th century, the lower classes would have used brittle clay mugs that would have cracked in hot temperatures. So for this reason, they would have almost always put the milk in first so that the hot water didn’t disintegrate the cup. But those of the richer persuasion would have used the fines bone china, and would subsequently not have had to worry about that.

-                 Break your scones with your hands

Forget all you’ve been taught about not eating with your hands. Higher society always used to break their scones with their hands during afternoon tea. The same also applies to bread rolls.

-                 But what comes first: the jam or the cream?

This one can be likened to the chicken and the egg. But for decorum’s sake, you should always add the jam before cream.

Just a simple Google search will return any number of fantastic afternoon tea for two experiences, all over the UK.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post. I have received no payment in conjunction with this post.


  1. I knew about the upper classes putting the tea in before the milk because I saw it on a BBC drama once and looked up why. I always laugh when people get very snobby about putting the milk in first.

    1. I didn't really know that before but I always always put the milk in after the tea. I must be incredibly posh without even realising! I'd never put it in first, that seems odd :p

  2. I always put the milk in afterwards so I can make it the right colour.

    1. Yes, yes, YES! It's impossible otherwise.


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