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Did you know that all the different tea times in Britain have a specific name? Pretty neat. Afternoon tea and high tea are sometimes used interchangeably but if you really know your British tea habits, you will know they are nowhere near the same. Afternoon Tea is more for the non-working class or those who have plenty of afternoon time while high tea is for the working class. (aka: most of us busy people)

Afternoon Tea

If you’re like me, you’re snacking between lunch and dinner because it feels like such a long gap of no food. This is exactly what afternoon tea was designed for. Afternoon tea emerged in the early 19th century. This tradition is carried out at 4 pm and everyone sits down with their cuppa & nibble on some sandwiches and scones. Back then, they often ate diner very late back because afternoon tea fulfilled their hungry tummy’s. Then they usually serve dinner as late as 8pm. (I’d be starving)

In today’s day, they simply use afternoon tea as a refreshment, not a decadent meal. Not many have the time to sit down and enjoy many scones & cakes at 4pm. They are working and getting along with life. Ever wanted to try out this tradition? Check out some of the famous tea rooms in Britain.

High Tea

As we said above, many are working during afternoon tea so they have to wait til after work to enjoy their cuppa. Since they are enjoying after work, they are usually very hungry so the meal that comes with the tea is little more hearty. Some may even refer to this as supper because it is basically a full meal.

 

-Alexis

 

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(c) Janelle Vesely for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

Bridges of Hope held their first annual Afternoon Tea for Hope on Sunday, May 3rd in Nisswa, MN. The event was attended by more than 115 guests and more than 25 volunteers, including Nisswa fire fighters.

Bridges of Hope is a 501c3 nonprofit serving the Brainerd Lakes Area whose mission is to build bridges of support, anchored in love, between families in the Lakes Area and the community assets that can help them thrive and gain hope. Bridges accomplishes this mission through a variety of preventative programming. To learn more, visit their website.

The Nisswa firemen served guests tea while they enjoyed savory snacks and desserts. Music was shared by students from the Theresa Kingsley School of Music. Each guest received a gift from local businesses, participated in a silent auction, took a chance at the Tea Tree game, & snapped photos of their Tea attire in the photo booth.

teaware

(c) Janelle Vesely for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

The décor at the event was breathtaking thanks to the English Tea Store and many others.

The event raised just over $10,000, which was the goal for the day. These funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Mardag Foundation and will benefit Bridges of Hope’s Side by Side Mentoring Program for women.

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(c) Janelle Vesely for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

Jana Shogren, Bridges of Hope Executive Director, stated, “We are thrilled with the outpouring of support for this first-time event. It went even better than expected and a great time was had by everyone in attendance.”

According to British history writers, afternoon tea was introduced in 1840 by Anna the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She became very hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon but dinner was not served until 8 in the evening – to her, a big gap between lunch and dinner. She asked for tea to be delivered to her room along with some bread and butter, the sandwich having been introduced in the 1760’s when the Earl of Sandwich asked for his meat to be put between two slices of bread so as not to interrupt his gambling game!

The Duchess decided to invite her friends along to join her in this little ritual and the afternoon tea increased to not only small sandwiches (cucumber sandwiches were popular then) but scones with clotted cream and jam and cakes too were added to this ‘small’ meal.

afternoon-teaThe tea was usually made in a silver teapot and the cup would normally have been bone china. Ceylon or Indian tea was popular then and was, of course, kept in a tea caddy.

Tea in Great Britain was very heavily taxed in the 18th Century and was therefore kept under lock and key! Silver tea caddies fell out of favour in the 19th Century and zinc lined wooden boxes were popular, still locked, usually with a matching spoon. Caddy spoons are very collectible in their own right as well as the tea caddies themselves.

Queen Anne, who reigned from 1702-1714, was a kind-hearted Queen, sister of Mary II, who really enjoyed drinking tea with her friends, Sarah Churchill in particular. Sarah Churchill’s husband of more than 40 years became the first Duke of Marlborough. So maybe afternoon tea was invented earlier than 1840 after all but just not called afternoon tea.

Arthurs_seat_edinburghNowadays afternoon tea at home is usually just a cup of tea from a tea bag and a biscuit, but one can still enjoy a real Afternoon Tea in some hotels and I for one am really looking forward to meeting our editor when we have Afternoon Tea in Edinburgh, the Capital of Scotland.

~JB

Editor’s note: I am also very much looking forward to meeting our UK recipe/blogging correspondent when I travel abroad!!

Cheese scones are delicious smothered with butter, cut into two with melted cheese on top or just on their own.  You can make plain scones without the cheese or sweet scones with sugar. Whichever you decide the results will be good I assure you.

175 g  or 6 ozs (3/4 c) Self Raising Flour
50 g  or 2 ozs (1/2 stick) Butter
75 g  or 3 ozs (1/3 c) grated strong cheese
a little milk and or a beaten egg

Heat the oven to 220 C, 425 F or Gas mark 7.  Prepare a baking sheet with some baking parchment.

Cheese SconeRub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheese, reserving a little for the top.  Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add a little milk or beaten egg until a soft dough is formed. (It is difficult to say exactly how much liquid you will need because flours do vary so I am afraid it is trial and error!) Sprinkle your unit top with flour and turn out the dough. Roll out with a rolling pin or just flatten slightly with your hand. Half an inch thick is good.  Using a scone cutter make about 6 or 8 scones and put onto the baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk or egg wash and sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Bake for about 10 to 15 mins until golden brown and firm sided.  Enjoy.

~JB

High Tea Rococo Style from KK Aurelia on Pinterest

High Tea Rococo Style from KK Aurelia on Pinterest

Popular history is nearly always wrong; or perhaps not quite right.

Many people now know that, no matter how many thousands of times it’s repeated on the internet, The 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, did not ‘invent’ afternoon tea – which is often incorrectly called ‘High Tea’, just to add to the confusion.

The Duchess did popularise the meal; and many people fondly believe it to be the same meal we now know and love: England’s population in particular having a stiff, formal discourse over cucumber sandwiches, scones, little pastries and copious pots of tea.

It’s really not quite true. Most people couldn’t afford the meal, or might have had tea and a piece of bread and drippings. Not quite Downton Abbey, is it?

We will, however, take a look at the upper classes, and at time when the fondly-if-incorrectly remembered Duchess was enjoying afternoon tea, examine the meal they actually had.

Let’s start with beverages. A hundred years before the Duchess started enjoying it, the meal consisted of wine, cakes and biscuits. By the early 1800s, the beverage list had grown to sherry, mineral water, sparkling wine punch and tea.

Tea was served to the guests in cups: the idea of the teapot being present and the tea being brewed on the spot is a later idea, about 1890.

Dressing for tea was really important. Many cookbooks of the day start with advising the lady of the house to dress elegantly to make the food taste better.

Trifles (via Yahoo! Images)

Trifles (via Yahoo! Images)

When it comes to food, the centrepiece was usually a huge trifle, often surrounded by moulded ice creams. Yes, ice creams, which doesn’t exactly fit with what we see today.

The little pastries we see today were there, usually acquired at a nearby French patisserie as these have been popular in England for hundreds of years.

Regional dishes have added to the confusion: common offerings included stotty cakes, oatcakes, tea cakes, and lardy cakes, and all of those are actually breads, the last two having dried fruit and the first two being savoury. And of course gingerbread which isn’t a bread in this context but more of a biscuit.

And then there’s scones. Scones were often made the size of a cake, and cut into wedges, and were usually mildly sweetened.

And lastly, one popular item: The Fat Rascal. Originating in Yorkshire, this is a tea biscuit enriched with lard and full of plump dried fruit.

For all the fancy white gloves, elegant silverware and carefully moulded ices, I suspect the best Afternoon tea gatherings would be enlivened by a few Fat Rascals.

See more articles by Robert Godden here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

by Guest Blogger Sarah Rosalind Roberts
[Editor’s note: Sarah’s second contribution to our blog — we hope to see more.]

A teapot full of freshly brewed Earl Grey tea, an array of cucumber sandwiches and freshly baked scones with clotted cream and homemade jam make for the perfect way to enjoy the day and see you through until dinner.

Earl Grey Cream Tea (ETS image)

Earl Grey Cream Tea (ETS image)

Afternoon tea has been a well loved English tradition for over a hundred years and was originally conceived to stave away hunger between meals.

Modern day afternoon tea isn’t too dissimilar from its humble origins, though some tea rooms now offer slight twists in their delivery.

This time of year can see establishments serving Christmassy spiced tea accompanied with luxury puff pastry mince pies. At other times of year, equally delightful themed afternoon teas can be enjoyed inspired by a summer’s day or even Alice in Wonderland.

Although the theme and presentation can be altered, the deeply rooted English etiquette can be felt in every sip.

Whenever I indulge in an afternoon tea, I feel as though I’m instantly transported to the 1920’s at Downton Abbey, enjoying a spot of tea with the Dowager Countess of Grantham, talking over the days events (or more likely, being talked into a plot that will likely cause the wrath of the Earl of Grantham!).

With season 4 due to premiere in January, perfecting the art of afternoon tea etiquette is essential for any die-hard fan wishing to hold their own event.

Here are some handy hints to help you on your way to hosting a perfectly mannered bash:

  1. Ordering of the tasty delights – the traditional order of afternoon tea is to have scones on the top tier, the savoury sandwiches on the middle and delicious sweet on the bottom tier.
  2. Stirring of the tea – we shall have no sloshing here! Simply place your spoon at the 6 o’clock position and move forwards and backwards from the 12 o’clock position. This should ideally be done to avoid clinking the china and leaving ghastly tea splashes.
  3. When to add milk – as a rule add the tea first to judge the strength of the brew. However, rules are there to be broken so if you prefer the taste of milk first, you go right ahead.
  4. Don’t forget your napkin – make sure you unfold and place your napkin on your lap to avoid any nasty spillages. When you’re finished, fold it loosely and place it to the left of your plate.

Most of all enjoy your afternoon tea, basking in Downton Abbey-ness!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Afternoon tea is a staple of tea traditions, and is most strongly associated with English customs. For big tea drinkers, who tend to drink tea all the time, sometimes all those teatimes end up blurring together. However, traditions exist for a reason, and recently I have been rediscovering the merits of afternoon tea as an essential part of my tea day.

Holiday Shopping - a great prelude to Afternoon Tea! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Holiday Shopping – a great prelude to Afternoon Tea! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

What exactly do I mean by afternoon tea? This is important to clarify, as the phrase can be confusing. As a fellow blog author pointed out a while back, there is afternoon tea and afternoon tea. For the purposes of this article, I am not referring to Afternoon Tea, or High Tea as it sometimes called, where sandwiches, or scones accompany the tea. Neither am I referring to lighter black teas specially blended for afternoon consumption. Rather, I am using the term to indicate the taking of tea during the mid-afternoon—that point in the day where you just need a little something to keep you going. This may take the form of a lighter black “afternoon” tea, but it also may not. And upon occasion a scone, muffin, or other tasty snack may accompany it, but not necessarily. The point is more about the timing than the content of the teatime.

As someone who drinks a lot of tea, inevitably I end up drinking tea in the afternoon. Sometimes more than once. Sometimes more than twice… But when constantly sipping tea through the day, it becomes less about teatimes than blurry, continuous tea drinking; although I am drinking a lot of tea, I do not specifically stop to enjoy a teatime purely devoted to tea. While being in a constant state of tea drinking can be a delightful thing, I have recently rediscovered the merits of intentionally taking time out to have afternoon tea. As I said, traditions exist for a reason. Mid-afternoon is usually when I start to run low on energy and find it harder to focus. So rather than pushing on with what I am doing, I have started to allow myself to take a tea break in order to recollect and refuel. What tea I drink, and whether I have a snack with it depends on how I am feeling that day. The key point is that is a teatime, not a tea-while-I-work-time.

It may not be the Afternoon Tea of cucumber sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream, but my rediscovered afternoon teas have become an essential milestone in my tea day that leave me feeling more productive and energised.

See more of Elise Nuding’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Whilst I have had unforgettable experiences with afternoon tea, I have also had experiences I’d rather forget! If you’re a café, restaurant or hotel that wants to provide a fabulous experience for your customers, these are just a tea tips of some Afternoon Tea no no’s:

Afternoon Tea – the clue is in the name!
Afternoon Tea should be very much to do with the tea as well as the dining experience.  Unfortunately I have been disappointed by a large number of hotels, cafés and restaurants that offer Afternoon Tea but offer a very limited choice of tea bag.  I suppose selecting a tea from two offerings is still a choice (she says begrudgingly).

Tea Bag at Afternoon Tea – Definite No No

Tea Bag at Afternoon Tea – Definite No No

The picture above brings me to another point which is where to put the tea once it has been infused?  I commend any café, restaurant or hotel that serves loose leaf tea with an infuser, but please, could I have somewhere to put the teabag (if you insist on using them) or an infuser tray once I’ve finished infusing please? 

Loose tea and infuser, but what, no drip tray?

Loose tea and infuser, but what, no drip tray?

Sandwiches:
These should be dainty little things with crusts taken off. Triangles or rectangles, the shape doesn’t matter but we shouldn’t have to use two hands to eat the sandwiches.  Could we stick to the tradition that Anne Russell, the Duchess of Bedford introduced? Dainty sandwiches on elaborate tea ware please?

Small Dainty Sandwiches rather than large cumbersome ones if you please

Small Dainty Sandwiches rather than large cumbersome ones if you please

Venue and Atmosphere:
This would be a room with high ceilings, tastefully elegant surroundings with natural light if possible.  Music can really enhance the atmosphere of the room so whether that is a harpist, violinist, pianist or classical music gently playing in the background, I’m sure you’ll agree that dance music even if played quietly, is not conducive to creating the perfect afternoon tea atmosphere.

Extra finishing touches: How about adding one or more of the following finishing touches to make that memorable afternoon tea experience? A glass of champagne upon arrival; endless plates of sandwiches (but do remember to leave room for dessert!); warm scones (there’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing the cream and jam slip off a warm scone) or a tea sommelier to assist you with your tea selection. 

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I’ve got a deep, dark secret.

I almost never order hot tea in restaurants. If I need a hot beverage with or after my meal, I order coffee.

I have reasons for my treachery: Most restaurants don’t serve good tea, and even if they do, they don’t always know how to serve it. In fact, some of the biggest tea blunders that I’ve encountered were perpetrated by restaurants that specialize in “afternoon tea”.

Take one Chicago restaurant, which shall remain nameless, that boasts a Saturday afternoon tea service. They have a credible tea selection and even manage to serve it in high-quality teaware. Where they fall down is with the water: They insist on heating their water to a temperature corresponding with the type of tea served (i.e., cooler water for green tea, near-boiling for black tea). This is wise. What is not wise is failing to develop a process for getting the tea out to customers sitting at the same table at the same time. Even worse, the restaurant can’t manage to get hot water refills to customers either.

(Suggestion: Two separate hot water dispensers, one holding water at 180° F and the other keeping the water at 208° F, should sort out water-matching problems pronto.)

Another restaurant doesn’t have proper teaware for loose leaf tea service. Tea is served in tiny, individual pots with even tinier cups. The pots don’t have an infuser, and the tea must be poured into the cup through a strainer. Any leftover tea, and there is leftover tea because the cups are so small, sits with the tea leaves, getting  more bitter and disagreeable by the second.

Grimaldi 2 Cup Infuser Teapot

Grimaldi 2 Cup Infuser Teapot

(Suggestion: If a restaurant doesn’t want to invest in teapots with built-in infusers, it needs to make sure that the capacity of its teapots and its teacups match up.)

One of my most disappointing tea experiences occurred at a lovely hotel famous for its afternoon tea. Everything about the experience was good,  particularly the food, except that the tea menu listed only one unflavored black tea on its standard tea menu.  Unflavored black teas are particularly food-friendly, especially when enjoying a meal of cakes and sandwiches. Yet every other tea was either flavored, some other type of tea (green, white, oolong) or an herbal tisane. What I wanted was a traditional Assam to stand up to a spread of finger sandwiches and pastries. What I got was a somewhat weak Yunnan black, tasty, but not ideal.

(Suggestion: Restaurants and tea rooms that serve food with tea should focus on their black tea selection, while offering other options for those who prefer them.)

What are your pet tea peeves?

See also:
Everything but the Tea
What To Look For In A Good Tearoom
Update for All the “Tea Princesses”
You Know You’re a Spoiled “Tea Princess” When…

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In my last post, I talked about a couple of tearooms in the UK which are especially dear to me.  In this post, I’d like to invite you to spoil yourself, indulge in tea, companionship and culinary delights in the wonderful world of High Tea.  High Tea or Afternoon Tea is a British institution that is enjoyed by many throughout the globe.  I wanted to share with you two of my favourite spots in the UK.

There are several Bettys Café Tea Rooms in Yorkshire.  Known affectionately as Bettys, I had the privilege of spending afternoon tea at Bettys in York and it ticked all the right boxes.  The hall mark of a great place is if there is a queue of people eagerly waiting: 10, 15 minutes, maybe even 30 minutes before opening time.  It kinda reminds me of my favourite Dim Sum Restaurant in Manchester but I digress 🙂 

From the moment you walk in you cannot fail to ooh and ahh at the beautiful art deco setting.  As the website suggests, it’s the elegant wood panelling, beautiful mirrors and stunning windows that makes you feel as if you’re on a luxury liner (without the sea sickness).

Interior of Bettys as shown on their website

Interior of Bettys as shown on their website

Afternoon Tea is a treat.  It’s a way that friends or family can reconnect, relax and take time with tea which is how tea should be taken.  Bettys doesn’t disappoint on that score.  Once the oohing and aahing stops you are welcomed by fabulous staff who take you to your seat.   More ooh and aahs and smiles galore as you admire the décor in detail.

Then there is the food and that certainly doesn’t disappoint either.  The sandwiches, scones, cream, preserves and petit fours were beautifully presented in pristine silverware for that true sense of luxury and indulgence.  I bought some Yunnan tea as a memento of my wonderful experience.

The "spread" at Bettys (also as seen on their website)

The "spread" at Bettys (also as seen on their website)

So from the beautiful city of York, back down to my former home, London, where I had the pleasure of afternoon tea in so many beautiful places including Claridges, Wolseley, a hotel that served afternoon tea with breadless sandwiches (!) and I also had the pleasure of sharing afternoon tea with Jane Pettigrew at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel.  The one place I remember fondly though is afternoon tea at The Palm Court in Sheraton Park Lane.  The room is just breath-taking with its beautiful art deco setting.  The symmetry of the bar area with the beautiful clock is astounding, but in sitting in the art deco lounge, with the harpist playing in the background, I closed my eyes and imagined I had gone back in time. 

Palm Court Bar

Palm Court Bar

There was quite a wide range of teas to choose from (I opted for Darjeeling), but the way afternoon tea was served was truly memorable.  Rather than the standard three tier cake stand, in keeping with art deco, a two-tier S-shaped stand was presented with the sandwiches placed on the bottom tier.  The next “course” came, with a delightful waiter presenting beautiful warm scones. 

[Picture 4 here]

Afternoon Tea at the Sheraton

Afternoon Tea at the Sheraton

The final treat came when the waiter brought a wonderful trolley of desserts which he took great delight in explaining in fine detail.  Unfortunately I didn’t hear a word he was saying as I was drooling over the treats trying to figure out which one to try first J  Apart from the business man having a very loud Skype call (which the waiter soon addressed: another sign of excellent customer service), this experience was truly spectacular and one not to be missed if you ever have the opportuni-tea.

Afternoon Tea Trolley at the Sheraton

Afternoon Tea Trolley at the Sheraton

Get the British tea touch wherever you are with authentic teas and British foods.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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