“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea” – Henry James
If you’ve seen us around and about on our blog or social media, you’ll probably have picked up on the fact we’re pretty into our afternoon teas. It has pretty much everything we could want: cake? Check! Scones? Check! More cake on a different tier of the pretty china cake stand? CHECK! If you get the impression we’re more interested in the dessert aspect of the event, you’d be correct – we’ll swap our sandwiches for more cake please.
Since it’s national afternoon tea week this week, we’re more than willing to celebrate!
We threw a birthday afternoon tea recently – how pretty does our William Morris Willow Bough Blue tablecloth look! I think it’s important to remember that when throwing an afternoon tea, whilst it’s all about the food and company, the accessories you have on the table are also very important. Afternoon tea has been seen for centuries as a high class thing to do, so keep it proper with a beautiful tablecloth with matching napkins – bonus points for placemats too! Finish it off with china – at the moment we’re loving the trend of having mismatched china on the table, with everyone having a different patterned cup or plate. If you’ve got matching sets, this looks wonderful too, but mismatched is a good trend if one cup has been smashed over the years or you’ve picked up an individual plate or two over the years and is a great way to showcase them and still use the odd bits you’ve collected one way or another.
How did Afternoon Tea begin?
Afternoon Tea began around 1840 when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford had an issue that she got hungry between lunch and dinner as their dinners were ‘fashionable late’ at around 8pm. She began to have tea and a snack alone in her boudoir – our kind of pal. Later, she thought it would be a fun idea to invite her friends to and so the tradition was born. Anna was a close friend of Queen Victoria and so as a prominent figure in London society, others followed suit. During the 1880s, the upper class society women would dress for the occasion in gowns, gloves and hats. The afternoon tea was usually served somewhere between 4-5pm and occurred in the drawing room. During the summer months, they moved the venue into their gardens and this encouraged the Lords and men of the house to join in the fun!
It’s worth noting that at the tine, Tea was a delicacy and an expensive thing to have and so it was a bit of a status symbol that they could afford to drink such a fine tea. The rich elite would even get their portraits commissioned and have fine china and teas included in the art so, again, people knew of their status and wealth.