The tradition of Afternoon Tea in London, that most quintessential of English customs is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively new tradition. Whilst the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China and was popularised in England during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza, it was not until the mid 17th century that the concept of ‘afternoon tea’ first appeared.
The story goes that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford was experiencing a “sinking feeling” in the afternoons and began taking tea with bread and butter in her rooms to revive herself. She began to invite friends to join her and as the trend caught on with the nobility, the meal became more elaborate, including little sandwiches and cakes. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves, and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.
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In the 19th century, having afternoon tea was a graceful event, which was governed by a complex set of rules and etiquette. Tea-drinking prompted silversmiths and linen manufacturers to produce appropriate tableware and even the tea gown was invented. The dress code for traditional afternoon tea is still smart. Ladies don’t have to wear dresses, hats, and gloves anymore, but gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie in most places
Blending teas began around 1870 when tea merchants such as Twinings, which has a royal warrant from H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, began to blend different teas in order to achieve a stable taste. Founded by Thomas Twining, who was born in 1675, Twinings invented the famous ‘Earl Grey’ blend of tea for Earl Grey, who was British Prime Minister from 1830-1835. This tea, which is flavored with oil of bergamot, a citrus fruit, has become the favorite China blend for afternoon tea with English and foreign tea connoisseurs alike. A variation of ‘Earl Grey’ is offered by Twinings’ ‘Lady Grey’.
The Tradition of Afternoon Tea
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off such as cucumber, egg, and watercress or smoked salmon are served first. This is followed by fresh scones warm from the oven with generous spoonfuls of clotted cream, which is also known as ‘Devonshire cream’ and home-made strawberry jam. Other favorites might include crumpets, bath or Chelsea buns, sticky black gingerbread, Victoria sandwich cake, Dundee cake, shortbread or brandy snaps.
Nowadays, cheap afternoon tea in London has become a perfect way to meet friends, family members, business colleagues and for a date with a girlfriend/boyfriend. The ideal way to slow down and relax in the demanding and hectic schedules of the afternoon is taking afternoon teas in London. This provides huge emotional and wellbeing benefits.
The most popular places for afternoon tea in central London are The Grosvenor House Hotel, London Marriott Hotel, Covent Garden, National Dining Rooms & Bakery, etc. The existence of the Royal Palaces, the headquarters of Government, the Law Courts and the head offices of a very large number of commercial and industrial firms makes afternoon tea really an exciting time for the tourists and Londoners
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