Often the phrases “afternoon tea” and “high tea” are being used interchangeably as much mistakenly think that there is absolutely no difference. Both tea traditions are steeped in British history and the differences, subtle as they may be, are a result of their origins.
What Is an Afternoon Tea?
Afternoon tea is a British food tradition of being seated for an afternoon treat of tea, sandwiches, scones, and cake. Afternoon tea is served around 4 p.m. When afternoon tea became fashionable in the first 19th century thanks to the Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, it was never intended to replace dinner but rather to fill in the long gap between lunch and dinner each time when dinner was served as late as 8 p.m. Lifestyles have changed since those times and afternoon tea is now a treat, rather than a stop-gap.
The working lives of many do not allow the time to sit down to enjoy scones and cakes in the late afternoon, so for many, the ritual is actually saved for holiday and special treat. The tradition is still quintessentially British, and many Brits still make time to sit and enjoy the propriety and civility of this the quaintest of English dining customs, just not on a daily basis. One renowned location to find a genuine afternoon tea is the Ritz in London. Their afternoon tea service is in such popular that bookings generally must be made months in advance. There are the famous Tea Rooms which have barely changed since the day they opened in 1919.
Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the entire year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the aftern oon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving an extended time frame between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked tha t a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be taken to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she started out inviting friends to become listed on her.
This break for tea became a fashionable social event. Through the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats because of their afternoon tea that was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.
So how will you host an afternoon Tea Party?
If the atmosphere is nice enough, opt for garden or a terrace party rather than sticking to indoors. Even so the choice is totally dependent on your comfort and weather. Do pay attention to the decor and associated paraphernalia in virtually any sort of setting that you choose to opt for.
- Decor ideas
Table, chairs, runner, cake stand, doilies, table-mats, centre-piece, china-ware, tea-pots and strainer are the key essentials for the afternoon tea party decor.
The silver and the chinaware lend the tea-party an imperial touch reminiscent of the colonial era. Noritake is the brand to look at for the luxury china ware. Those looking to try some mix and match can opt for quirky tea-coffee ware from brands like Good earth, Jaypore, Cyahi and India Circus.
As far as the table runners go, you can opt for the chintz fabric from the local market or prepare yourself made table cloths in various prints and fabrics. You could customize the table cloth as per the mood of the decor – Indian fabrics like block prints and Tie and dye, Victorian designs like floral prints, Parsi traditional checkered prints or classic linens in colours. Add doilies, a fascinating British element, to improve the decor of the table.
A two tiered cake-stand forms the perfect centre piece for serving the savouries and sweets. Alternatively, you can decorate the table with a floral centre-piece and serve the savouries and cakes in serving plates.
Once you have decided the venue and determined the decor, you need to give attention to the teas. What good an afternoon tea party is without an enviable selection of teas? Choose from wide variety of tea options that are now available in market- Earl Grey, Peppermint, Chamomile, Green herbal tea, Tisanes and undoubtedly classic English Breakfast Tea to serve at the afternoon tea party.
Keep the sugar cubes and milk/ creamer ready in separate pots along with few lemon slices privately for many who like their tea slightly weak.
Though it’s a tea party, do keep a choice of coffee pot as well for the ones who love their coffee.
- Savouries & Sweets
Afternoon tea is all about bite sized sweet and savoury treats. You might like to serve your baked goodies over a three-tiered tea platter. A classic afternoon tea contains a layer of sandwiches, cakes, scones and teacakes. However to add to some razzle dazzle at the party, you can include pastries and biscuits.
The lower platter is perfect for placing small sandwiches and savoury bits and pieces, the center platter is suitable for scones, pastries and biscuits and the high platter fits fruits and sweets.
Classic scones with jam and clotted cream, orange and coriander drizzle cake, Moroccan orange & cardamom cake, banana custard éclairs, summer sandwiches, lemon cheese cake, marble cake, carrot & raisin cake are few of the delectable options to add to your afternoon tea party menu.