Afternoon tea is one of London’s most time-honoured traditions. Having seen a resurgence in popularity during the last few years, people from all over the world now flock to England’s capital for a chance to try it for themselves. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at some of the key things to know about the delicious history of afternoon tea…
Early origins of afternoon tea
The tradition of afternoon tea was first pioneered by the British aristocracy, and subsequently filtered down to the ladies-who-lunch set. It was the Duchess of Bedford who, in the 1840s, noted that the long gap between lunch and dinner left her craving a snack, mid-afternoon. In this era, dinner was served fashionably late at around 8pm, and so the Duchess began eating cake and tea at 4pm to keep her hunger at bay. In time, she began inviting friends to join in. During the 1800s, afternoon tea became an occasion for celebration, with participants dressing up in their best clothes and enjoying the meal between the hours of 4pm-5pm.
London has always been a popular venue for those seeking afternoon tea somewhere other than their own home. If you’re staying at hotels near Paddington Station you are ideally situated for trying this tradition yourself.
What’s in a traditional afternoon tea?
The standards for a traditional afternoon tea remain relatively rigid. There must be plentiful tea (sometimes a selection) and cakes, pastries and sandwiches to accompany. This standard has evolved only minimally over the years, with adaptations mainly focusing on changes to the types of cakes offered. However, some of the spaces where you can find the best afternoon tea in London also offer new and original takes on the classic, and the best venues will also provide the option of adding a glass of wine or champagne to your meal.
Where can I enjoy an afternoon tea in London?
For your own afternoon tea experience, there are lots of great places in London to choose from. The Chilworth Hotel offers a tasty traditional afternoon tea for two, as well as an indulgent chocolate afternoon tea, which is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. If you’d prefer to try different flavours on your tea break, then opt for the Indian afternoon tea, where you’ll be treated to yummy chicken tikka sandwiches, samosas and more. Each option comes complete with a glass of bubbly.
Current popularity of afternoon tea
While never really going out of style, there’s no denying that afternoon tea has become increasingly popular this decade. Some attribute this popularity to a growing interest in nostalgia and tradition, whilst others conclude it’s simply that a convention which was once reserved for the higher echelons of society has become more and accessible, leading to greater interest in enjoying this tasty treat amongst a wider cross section of society. Either way, afternoon tea is a wonderful way to celebrate during your visit to London.