Thursday, June 29, 2017

Afternoon Tea in the Victorian Era

By Gretchen Sawatzki

If you've ever been to a tea room for afternoon tea, you've probably had small crustless sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream, but have you ever considered where this tradition came from? Today, afternoon tea is somewhat of luxury, as most of us have regular 9-5 jobs, escaping for hot tea and finger foods isn't always a possibility. In the Victorian era, however afternoon tea was absolutely essential as it provided a place to engage socially among friends.

Antique Afternoon Tea service with tray.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The tradition began in 1840 with the Seventh Duchess of Bedford. Due to the long periods of time between meals, the Duchess often grew famished and hungry in the afternoon. To satisfy her hungry, she began requesting a tray of tea, breads, and cakes to her bed chamber every afternoon. After some time, the Duchess began inviting friends to take tea with her and get caught up on all of the latest gossip.

Oddly enough, around this same time the Earl of Sandwich invented the modern sandwich which enhanced the overall tea drinking experience, rounding out the afternoon snacks, and thus creating afternoon tea.

Tea table made especially for afternoon tea.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

No tea service is complete without scones, cakes, sandwiches, and of course a hot pot of tea. Accoutrements for this afternoon event include porcelain dishware, tongs for sugar cubes, sugar bowls, tea cups, saucers, butter knives, napkins, special tea tables, and of course a stunning tea set.

  The Drake Hotel, Palm Court

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