Whether you prefer English Breakfast, Earl Grey, or a spot of Darjeeling, we are all going to be sticking our pinkies out to salute the Great British institution that is afternoon tea during afternoon tea week 12th – 18th August. So break out the fine china and the cake stand, and get ready to indulge in scones and clotted cream.
Whenever afternoon tea is mentioned, it conjures up an image of something like Downton Abbey, with extravagantly dressed individuals following unwritten rules of etiquette for drinking tea and eating cake. This image isn’t too far from the truth when we consider afternoon tea’s origins.
In 1850 Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford would get what she would refer to as a “sinking feeling” in the afternoon. This was most likely concerning low blood sugar or hunger pangs as back then people only ate breakfast and an evening meal; there was no such thing as lunch!
To combat this, Anna would ask for tea and cake to be served to her in her private quarters. This became common with Anna and she would later invite friends to join her, making the experience more social. Word spread about this practice, social hostesses began adopting it and its popularity spread, not only as a way to fend off hunger in the afternoon but as a way to socialise with friends.
Today, the format for afternoon tea remains largely unchanged, although modern afternoon tea tends to be a more substantial meal it was when it was first introduced. It consists of a selection of teas served with small sandwiches (with thinly sliced cucumber being a traditional favourite), scones with clotted cream and jam as well as a selection of other cakes and sweet treats.
Afternoon Tea has been given a massive increase in popularity because of the annual Afternoon Tea Week celebration founded by Dine Time Ltd, the company behind the Time For Food restaurant reservation system. This system is integrated with afternoontea.co.uk to allow you to easily and seamlessly book a table at any of their affiliated venues.
Keith Newton, Managing Director of Dine Time Ltd had the following to say regarding Afternoon Tea Week:
“We created Afternoon Tea Week in 2013 to raise the profile of Afternoon Tea in all its forms from a home-baked treat to a five-star hotel experience.
We also created the Afternoon Tea Awards in 2016 to recognise high standards in Afternoon Tea service across the UK. We have a team of independent judges who visit each venue twice and score every aspect of their experience from booking to departure. Judging for the 2019 awards is underway and the results will be announced at the event in London during September…
We will be running our Afternoon Tea Week campaign again this year, with over 100 hotels and restaurants offering 25% off their Afternoon Tea throughout August, exclusive to AfternoonTea.co.uk customers. We also encourage venues to create special Afternoon Tea Week menus or put on special events which we promote through our website, social media channels and PR.”
With the modern proliferation of afternoon tea, many establishments are offering increasingly unique experiences in an attempt to set themselves apart from the competition. A progressively popular trend is a “themed” afternoon tea, where the traditional scones, cakes and sandwiches are presented in non-traditional ways or interesting surroundings.
One of the most compelling themed afternoon tea services local to the Erudus offices, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is the Tyneside Cinema’s “Afternoon Tea at the Movies”. The Tyneside Cinema is the only surviving news theatre still operating as a cinema today since its doors opened in 1937.
As well as offering excellent films and educational programs from within its historic architecture, the Tyneside Cinema’s Café offers afternoon tea 7 days a week with a special service on a Sunday where your afternoon tea will be served while watching a classic film. It is one of the most popular and longest-running events for the venue and a novel way to enjoy traditional afternoon tea fare themed around the film you are watching (Oliver Cheese Twists anyone?).
If you are a caterer, chef or restaurant owner and already offer an afternoon tea service, or are considering joining in on the fun this Afternoon Tea Week, try and get creative and consider your own ways you can stand out from the crowd and attract more customers. Maybe you could offer a “High Tea” instead of an Afternoon Tea, where you swap out the dainty cakes and finger sandwiches for more hearty choices like scotch eggs, cheeses and meat pies. Or perhaps you could think of a theme to capitalise on the hype around an existing event, such as a Wimbledon themed Afternoon Tea service with fresh strawberries, cream and round cakes decorated to look like tennis balls, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!
Let’s get this Par-Tea started
If you have never experienced afternoon tea before, there can be some considerations to make or fears you may have around lack of knowledge around the custom. Here at Erudus, we want you to comfortably celebrate afternoon tea in style and have brought together several resources to help take the pressure off:
- Interested in experiencing afternoon tea for yourself but worried about the minefield of protocol and social rules to follow? Fear not! Twinings, an authority on all things tea-related, have this etiquette guide to make sure that you can enjoy the experience without making a faux pas.
- There is much more to tea than the black tea most of us dunk our biscuits in, so going for afternoon tea is a perfect excuse to broaden your horizons and experience something new in your cup. To help you find something to suit your palate, The World Tea directory has developed this comprehensive tea guide for beginners to assist in selecting something different this afternoon tea week.
- If you are interested in delivering a quintessentially British afternoon tea experience yourself, we have another great guide from our friends at Twinings on brewing the perfect cup of tea.
Recipes for Afternoon Tea Week
The knowledge above, coupled with these recipes for some afternoon tea treats presented in the Erudus recipe builder will ensure that you and your guests will have a delicious experience: