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Afternoon Tea is such a quintessentially British ritual. Legend has it that this custom goes back to the mid 1800’s, to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford.
It was customary in the early 19th century to eat only two meals a day and dinner tended to be quite late, between 8 and 9pm. In the life of an idle aristocrat this meant a very long wait from elevenses (a midmorning breakfast) – to dinner. To stave off hunger, Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford decided to have tea (a very fashionable drink at the time), cakes and sandwiches delivered to her room. Later on she began to invite friends to join her and the light tea was such a success that the habit caught on! When the duchess returned to London she continued this habit and the ‘at home’ tea, involving idle chatter over tea and cake, quickly spread throughout England. Announcements were soon sent to relatives and friends announcing at what hour the Afternoon Tea would be served. Tea parties became the norm and soon tea gardens and tea rooms sprang up everywhere. Afternoon Tea was soon being served up at luxury hotels like The Ritz and high-end stores like Fortnum and Mason, often accompanied by light music and sometimes dancing.
Outside of England, many people refer to the Afternoon tea as High Tea but, although it appears to have a lofty ring to it, the term is not traditionally or historically correct.
Whereas Afternoon Tea was traditionally served on low tables while sitting around on comfortable chairs, High Tea was served, just after 5pm at a high dinner table whilst sitting on upright chairs. It was a heavy meal of meat or fish dishes with veggies, potatoes, baked beans, bread – and tea.
High tea was much more of a working class family meal than an elite social gathering.
PS look out for our Lindt Chocolate Tea which will be both a Morning and an Afternoon Tea at the WChocfest 2016!