A traditional afternoon tea has been something enjoyed by countless people over the last two centuries. It was created by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who used to enjoy an afternoon snack in her bedroom, to see her through from lunch until dinner. Eventually, she decided to invite some friends to dine with her, and so the afternoon tea was invented.
The idea soon spread, and within no time all of England was enjoying afternoon tea (not to be confused with high tea, which is something entirely different).
Although this mealtime did fall out of favour, particularly because of the ravages of the First and Second World Wars, there has lately been something of a resurgence, and many people are discovering just how enjoyable afternoon tea really is.
Even if you can’t go out and enjoy an afternoon tea somewhere special, you can make an excellent version at home if you plan in advance and think things through carefully. Read on for some tips on how to do it and treat yourself when you really need to.
What Type Of Afternoon Tea?…
There are several different types of afternoon tea, so before you can buy the ingredients you’re going to need, you should decide which one to enjoy. The different types include:
- Cream tea: if you are eating scones with clotted cream and jam (and no other food or cakes), your afternoon tea becomes a cream tea instead.
- Light tea: a light tea consists of a cream tea with added pastries, cakes, biscuits, and even individual fruit tarts.
- Afternoon tea: the full afternoon tea is the same as a light tea, only there are also savoury sandwiches to add to the mix. Although these can contain anything, salmon and cucumber, beef and horseradish, and egg mayonnaise are particularly popular. These sandwiches will be cut into fingers and there will be no crusts.
- Champagne tea: as above, but with a glass of champagne or sparkling wine to make the occasion a real celebration.
Although in the past, a pot of freshly brewed tea might have made the entire treat a complete one, today that isn’t necessarily the case. Enjoying a fresh coffee made from Horsham Coffee Roaster is perfectly acceptable if that’s your preference.
Serving Your Tea…
Although no one is going to complain if you serve your afternoon tea on a selection of small plates laid out on a coffee table (for example), there is a traditional method, and it’s what really makes this meal stand out and become recognisable, so it’s worth investigating and going the full way if you can.
In the traditional method of serving afternoon tea, you will have a teapot (or coffee pot) brewing your favourite hot beverage (in other words you wouldn’t use a tea bag or instant coffee, at least not if you’re going by the book). But it’s how the food is served that is really important; you’ll need a tiered set of serving plates, ideally in a floral pattern (rose chintz is particularly attractive). These plates will be stacked one on top of the other, and at the bottom you’ll have sandwiches, above that will be scones, and then above that it will be all the other pastries and cakes (you may need two layers for this option).
Work from the bottom up when eating and you’ll get the best flavours in the right order.