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The History of Afternoon Tea


A warming pot of tea, freshly made pastries and scones, dainty sandwiches and decadent homemade cakes. What’s not to love about the traditional afternoon tea?

It’s the perfect pick-me-up to satisfy your sweet tooth, but where did this delicious treat originate? We take a look at how the traditional, quintessentially English afternoon tea came to be.

Afternoon Tea at Mitton Hall, Lancashire

Tea fit for a king and queen…

The custom of drinking tea was popularised during the mid-17th century by King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta, Catherine of Braganza. Tea itself was an expensive commodity and therefore reserved mainly for the upper classes who could afford to splash out on this luxury.

It was not until the mid-18th century that the East India Company began importing tea to Europe. As a result, it became widely accessible and the consumption of tea in Britain greatly increased.

During this time it was customary to only eat two meals a day; breakfast in the morning and dinner in the early evening. However, as the invention of electricity enabled people to light up their homes after the hours of darkness, dinner times grew gradually later. Now, peckish families faced a lengthy period of time between meal times.

It was all thanks to Anna…

At this time, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, known simply as Anna, was a prominent figure in London society. She was quite vocal about the long, drawn-out wait between breakfast and dinner, complaining that she often had an afternoon slump.

As she grew increasingly pinched waiting for her evening meal, she decided to take matters into her own hungry hands – and began inviting her close friends to her home for a spot of tea and a light snack served in the mid-afternoon, between four and five o’clock.

She held these tea parties often and continued to host them when she moved back to London. They were so popular that they soon became a ritual amongst the upper classes – and afternoon tea as we know it was born.

Getting dressed up for tea

It became a fashionable social event; guests would wear “tea gowns” and sip from elegant porcelain cups. Traditionally, afternoon tea consisted of dainty sandwiches, filled with well-to-do ingredients such as cucumber, egg and cress and smoked salmon. These were accompanied by freshly made scones, indulgent clotted cream and jam and, of course, a pot of warming tea.

To this day afternoon tea forms a big part of English tradition. Although, it is now enjoyed as more of a special treat than an everyday event. It’s classic, elegant and quintessentially English – just our cup of tea!

Afternoon Tea at Mitton Hall If you are a fellow lover of tea, then why not join us for Afternoon Tea at Mitton Hall? We have some the finest afternoon tea Lancashire has to offer, in the finest surroundings.

It’s a truly delightful experience that you won’t forget so please get in touch for more information. Give us a call on 01254 826 544 or visit our website.

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