Time for tea

FOOD AND DRINK: JAMES WILKINSON

Whether it’s a time to celebrate a special occasion or just a chance to meet with friends and raise a glass of fizz, there's no doubting its luxurious allure. Queen and Country gives a brief history of one of England's most famous culinary offerings, the Afternoon Tea.

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Afternoon tea is a tradition that dates back to the 19th century. In 1840, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, would get hungry between lunch and dinner – at four o’clock to be precise. So she would ask her staff to bring a tray of tea, bread and butter. The Earl of Sandwiches eponymous invention – a filling between two slices of bread – was brought too. To top off that luxurious tray of food she would also demand that a cake was taken to her room.

The Duchess’s afternoon snack became a habit and, as time went by, she started inviting friends to join her. The habit became a fashion and the upper classes began playing a game of one-upmanship, making a special effort to pause at the same time of day to consume what became known, as it is to this day, as “afternoon tea”. They would change into flowing peacock-like gowns, with hats to match and long silk gloves.

You can imagine the dainty treats and silverware that became part of this tradition. The clotted cream built up layer upon layer in bone china bowls would dazzle the eye of the beholder, creating happiness and giving the devourers a feeling of opulence.

Today, afternoon tea has a bit more free rein. But it still consists of the staples: small dainty sandwiches, scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, all served with a fresh pot of English tea.

My stomach is rumbling at the thought of it. Go and explore this for yourself, or treat a friend or family member. The South West in particular has much to offer by way of tea rooms with blissful countryside as a backdrop.

One we like (and give a four-star Queen & Country rating) is: King John’s Hunting Lodge, Tea Room. ‘The oldest house in the rare, unspoilt medieval village of Lacock’ King John’s Hunting Lodge, Church Street, Lacock, Wiltshire, SN15 2LB t/01249 730313 or info@kingjohns.co.uk

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