Afternoon tea has been a quintessentially English tradition since 1840 when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, decided that she needed tea and a light snack to fill the gap between lunch and dinner which was served fashionably late at 8pm in her house. Soon she was inviting friends to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this became a summer practice. Initially, afternoon tea was a private social event for ladies who climbed the echelons of society. It was only when Queen Victoria engaged in the Afternoon Tea ritual that it became a formal occasion on a larger scale. Tea rooms were all the rage in the late 19th century, becoming respectable places for women to meet and share gossip without a chaperone.
Initially, the Duchess’ afternoon teas consisted of a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake. Scones were not a common feature of early Afternoon Tea and were only introduced in the early 1900s a time period when the cream tea started to become well known to the rest of the country with the expansion of the railways. Nowadays, traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), a cream tea (scones served with clotted cream, preserves and a pot of tea), cakes and pastries.
Afternoon tea has become popular as an occasional treat, such as for a birthday gathering amongst friends or anniversary celebration, with most upmarket hotels and some tearooms serving it between 2pm-5pm.
Afternoon tea can also be delivered to your door. Cornish Hampers have a range of afternoon tea hampers that include a delicious Cornish cream tea, with Rodda’s clotted cream, hand-made scones and local Boddingtons strawberry jam. Boddington Berries is known as very berry jam with 80g of strawberries per 100g. Some hampers include Tregothnan Tea, the world’s first true English tea, grown in the perfect conditions on the Boscawen family’s ancient Cornish Estate and on Tregothnan land throughout South Cornwall. Sam from Cornish Hampers said “afternoon tea hampers make excellent gifts as they tick a lot of boxes, being an interesting gift, widely liked, easy to send by post and they don’t require the diary planning that afternoon tea out does”.