Monday, 4 March 2013

Everything Stops for Tea!

There is nothing as quintessentially English as Afternoon Tea and this is a custom that I am very much in favour of.  Afternoon tea is one of my favourite ways to partake of sandwiches and cake and the only time I really enjoy a cup of tea (I am a coffee person really)


Afternoon Tea was first introduced by Anna Russell Duchess of Bedford, wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford when in the mid-1840s she was visiting Belvoir Castle and found it such a long time from lunch (usually eaten at mid-day) and the evening meal (around 8:00 pm) and she felt the need for a little sandwich or scone and a cup of tea.  When the Duchess entertained the local female gentry and London society ladies she would ask for a plate of finger sandwiches (so much easier to eat in a dainty manner) and little cakes to be offered with the tea.
This caught on and soon became a favourite amongst society women. 
The English often refer to their meal in the evening as tea whereby it would be called supper in America.  High Tea often included something hot and more substantial such as Welsh Rarebit or Toad in the Hole.  Although this was once a custom for the upper end of society it is thankfully something everyone can indulge in today.

I have been lucky enough to take Afternoon Tea in some of London’s most famous places like, The Ritz, Fortnum & Mason – both in Piccadilly, Harrods Knightsbridge, The Savoy, Claridges, The Dorchester, Le Meridian Hotel, The Basil Street Hotel to name but a few.

I have also sampled the selection in St Albans where I currently live at Sopwell House, St Michael’s Manor and Mokoko (who had their inaugural afternoon tea which I was able to attend and included earl grey mini cupcakes provided by Heaven is a Cupcake  – this will now be a daily ritual since their recent refurbishment).  It is a great excuse to get together with family and friends and sit back, relax and be waited on or in fact to do the same at home.

There are many tiered plates and platters available nowadays to give you that decadence and pleasure in the comfort of your own home, including lovely china tea cups and saucers (a mug is never acceptable with Afternoon Tea) and china tea pots, milk jugs and sugar bowls.  You can make it as elaborate as you wish or quite simple, just a smoked salmon sandwich (crust less) and a small scone!

I got married almost two years ago in April to the long suffering Mr R (only joking) and we both felt it was utterly us to have afternoon tea for our wedding feast.  We choose St Michael’s Manor for the setting, the views of Verulamium Park and the wonderful selection for the food and attentive waiting staff.


I am lucky enough to have been sent a copy of a book called ‘High Tea at the Victoria Room’ by Jill Jones-Evans & Jo Gambacorta from the publishers New Holland Publishers to review.

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