History of Afternoon Tea
Back in the early 1800’s in Britain, it was common to have only two meals: breakfast first thing in the morning and dinner late in the evening. Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, had a difficult time waiting so long in between and would often become hungry in the late afternoon. In order to curb her appetite, she would make a pot of tea and enjoy a light snack. Her friends started to join her and it soon became a daily ritual for the upper class women of her time. Eventually Queen Victoria got word of this afternoon tea delight and it became widespread throughout Britain. What started as small gatherings among friends turned into large social receptions with hundreds of guests.
Difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea
Afternoon tea, also known as low tea, was largely a social event for upper class women. It occurred around 4pm when the middle class was still hard at work. The setting consisted of low sitting tables, comfortable chairs, manners, lace, delicate finger foods and tea.
High tea is on the other hand began around 6pm when the working man arrived home. It was served at regular tables and chairs and consisted of a more heavy meal of meats, fish and baked goods.
Today, afternoon tea and high tea are practically one in the same and are typically celebrated for baby showers, birthdays or other random events.
Afternoon Tea Party Menu
Depending on the occasion, afternoon tea parties can be fairly simple to host. Here’s a few of the basics of what you’ll need to get started:
Tea – A wide variety of teas is recommended, but not necessary. Pick teas that go well with the type of food you’ll be serving. Bold flavored teas go well with stronger flavored foods while delicate teas go better with a lighter fare. Earl grey (flavored black), chamomile (delicate and caffeine free), assam black tea (served well with milk and sugar) or mint tea (goes well with sweets) are a few great teas to serve at your afternoon event. Always be sure to give your guests a non-caffeinated choice.
Finger Sandwiches – Have an assortment of small sandwiches available for your guests. These can include chicken or egg salad, smoked salmon, roast beef or ham. Give the option of different flavors that go well with the types of tea being served.
Scones – How can you have an afternoon tea party without scones? Decide on the types of scones your guests will enjoy. There’s a variety of flavors and most go well with tea. There’s buttermilk scones, fruit & cheese, Irish scones with dried fruit and nuts and raspberry scones which women seem to love.
Miscellaneous – Besides what we discussed above, you could also serve cheese and crackers, soups, nuts, cakes and muffins. You could serve tea alternatives such as juice, champagne or tea infused cocktail.
Other Things To Think About
When hosting a tea party many factors can come into play. What’s the reason for the party? What is the season? How will you decorate and what color theme will you use?
Be sure to test the food and teas you’ll be serving. Which ones go well together and which ones don’t. Be prepared to offer combinations that taste amazing. Show off your stuff!
Think back about how the tradition began. A small social gathering to enjoy teas, fine foods and friendship. Enjoy yourself and your time with others.