The History and Etiquette of ‘Afternoon Tea’

2016 is a special year for all things patriotic. With the Queen’s 90th Birthday on the horizon, there is no better time to stop and reflect on quintessentially British traditions. And what is more British than taking afternoon tea? It would only make sense to explore such a great tradition and to shed some light on not only where it came from, but how to go about enjoying it in its traditionally authentic way. Lending a help in hand on this voyage of discovery is one of the top hotels in Chelsea, The Draycott.

First; When did Drinking Tea become Popular in the UK?

Charles II is believed to have been one of the first in Britain to drink tea on a regular basis. When he married Catherine of Braganza later in his monarchy, it is thought that she brought tea with her to the UK from Spain. She was frequently known to host tea meetings in her bedroom and dressing rooms with her closest friends and acquaintances; she has more recently been named as the first tea-drinking queen.

How did this turn into Afternoon Tea?

In the early 18th century, Jane Austin was the first to inform us of the now popular ritual, but it was in fact the 7th Duchess of Bedford who brought afternoon tea into the mainstream. In the afternoons Anne used to complain that she had a sinking feeling. She therefore began drinking tea in her boudoir and indulging in light snacks. This further led to her taking her tea outdoors as enrichment activity with friends. After this time, tea became a great British recreational afternoon event which is now referred to as afternoon tea.

Top Five Tips for Taking Afternoon Tea:

  1. Dress to impress– Smart casual clothing is always appropriate as afternoon tea is deemed a formal occasion
  2. Know your teas – Most people believe these are all the same thing, but this is not true. Cream Tea is simply scones with tea; Afternoon Tea is tea with scones, sandwiches and cakes; Royal Tea consists of Champagne, tea, scones, savouries and sweets; High Tea is deemed as an early evening snack which is made up of savouries and tea.
  3. Which first, cream or Jam? – Afternoon tea critics are yet to agree on which goes first. The Devonshire tradition is cream then jam; the Cornish, however, believe in jam then cream. The conclusion? Either taste just as good to us!
  4. No pinkie Many believed this was first done to offset the balance of the cup and make it easier to drink. However, try this for yourself and its obvious this is not the case.
  5. Pour the milk last – One should first add sugar (if required). This should then be followed by tea in order to check the strength meets your preference. After this you, or your maid, should then add milk (again if required).

If you feel like celebrating tradition, and putting your newfound etiquette to the test, then come and anjoy an afternoon tea in Chelsea with the Draycott Hotel. You can reserve your place online or give our friendly team a call to make a booking.

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