Fancy a spot of tea? When you think of English traditions, you would be remiss to forget tea time. Finger sandwiches, crumpets, clotted cream, jam, scones, and of course, tea are the main components of a well spent afternoon.
Long ago in the year 1662, Portugal’s Catherine of Braganza married King Charles II and introduced tea to the country. Around 1830s England, tea emerged as a social event when Anna Maria Russell, the duchess of Bedford, became famished and required an afternoon snack. Tea and refreshments were sent to her chamber and since then, the tradition of afternoon tea became popular in England as a way to quell hunger before the next meal.
It is a ritual that includes a piping hot pot of tea steeped in a beautiful china teapot and teacup usually colourful or floral in design. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from: fruit teas, green teas, white and black, and everyone’s favourite, English breakfast tea. But be careful, you can be spotted as a Yankee American if you extend the dreaded pinky, so be wary when exercising tea etiquette.
As for the treats and sweets, they are served on a three-tiered stand. Finger sandwiches like cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and crème fraîche with dill, chicken salad and egg salad are on the bottom tier. On the second, a selection of scones served with fruit jam and clotted cream, which gets its name from the clots that appear when cream is made thick by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam. The third and top tier holds sweet offerings to tuck into like teacakes, macarons and tarts.
And yes, there is a difference between afternoon tea and high tea. The former is served around noon as a light snack whereas the latter is served at 4 p.m., to close the dinner gap as supper is served no earlier than 7:30 or 8 p.m.
Pop over to your local tea house and enjoy a good cuppa and some sweet morsels as you ponder the musings of the early afternoon.
—Duchess Jennifer Fauci