The Perfect Manual for A Perfect English Afternoon Tea.
Whenever I tell people about my love for a piping hot brewed cuppa, the first thing they say is “Oh wow! I know there is nothing that excites Britons than dunking biscuits in their best China cups, saucers and tea pots. My tea experiences, however, started as a child many miles away from the Queen’s land in sunny Accra, Ghana, where I cherished the hot afternoons I spent in my father’s “air-conditioned” office bonding over full teas and cakes. Trust me, my relationship with this camellia sinensis plant was that deep!
What I truly love about drinking tea, however, goes beyond taste and extends to its unique ability to bring people together. I often reminisce the scenes in beautiful Marrakesh, where families sat at the entrance of their homes around large pots brewing mint flavoured tea accompanied by sounds of laughter and clinkling glass tea cups.
Tea, i’m told is the second most consumed drink in the world. Water is the first. Today though, let’s put Morrocan tea and all other teas aside. We will be making a fuss about the famous English Afternoon tea! The English Afternoon Tea has become an institution in its own right and to truly appreciate it, you must familiarise yourself with its history.
Many years ago when the English were a little unrealistic about their eating habits and ate twice a day, the duchess Anna of Bedford would often get hungry around 4pm, but would have to wait until 8pm for dinner. She finally got tired of getting hungry and would request tea with bread and butter or cakes to nibble on while waiting for dinner (sounds like what I would do for a midnight snack). After a while, the trend caught on with the elite who would invite their friends to gossip over a cuppa in their long gowns and big hats while secretly spying on each other’s China.
Let’s fast forward to the 21st century. The Afternoon Tea has now become a social event and a very pricey one at that, at least on the British Isles. In as much as I enjoy going out with friends for afternoon tea, I do appreciate that it’s quite an expensive treat. Expect to spend as much as £75.00 per person depending on your choice of venue and type of afternoon tea. Tip: The afternoon tea drinking and tea industry in general is competitive so if you are half as diligent as I am you might be able to bag a deal or two online; It is not uncommon to find a deal for £20.00 for two for afternoon tea in London.
Believe it or not a lot of Londoners haven’t experienced this very British tradition and have no idea what to expect or how to behave at a typical afternoon tea. As summer makes its way #tastewithprinny wants to make sure you are not a social misfit at your first or even second afternoon tea session.
Most venues have a casual smart dress code and for the guys smart jeans and collard shirts should be fine unless otherwise stated. No sportswear Please! For the ladies, if it’s a hotel, there’s no better opportunity to look fabulous, but once again smart casual should work in a cafe or local restaurant.
You would think Afternoon tea would be called exactly that, but trust the English to make you pull out your hair over the right terminology. The Traditional Afternoon Tea comes with a variety of small bites that includes sandwiches, scones and a selection of cakes with tea.
Upgrade to the Royal Tea with a glass of Prosecco. Downgrade to just scones and cream with tea and you have The Cream Tea. I had the best cream tea experience in Devon in a countryside cottage and that was nowhere close to being a downgrade so when in Devon, have a cream tea. Oh you heard about High Tea? Well, most foreigners visiting the UK still use that term even though it was what the lower classes used to have and included more savoury food.
Do’s and Don’ts
Oh yes! Let’s settle this now.
You should not dunk your biscuits in your tea! Don’t clink your spoon against your cup! You don’t want to draw unwanted attention to yourself. Stir gently from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock direction till you get your desired taste and don’t leave your spoon in your cup, place it quietly on the saucer.
You can brew your tea to a maximum of 5 minutes, depending on your taste and tea type, anything over that could damage the flavour. Please please please, don’t keep your pinkie up while sipping your tea, I don’t want you looking silly. If you are a messy eater like me, cut your scones into two portions to avoid spreading the crumbs all over.
I like to have my cream on my scone first, but dare to be different if you wish. There are no fast rules about whether to pour your milk or tea first, once again it depends on your taste, if you like your tea less creamy then tea goes in first. Patiently go through the tea menu, most places describe the flavours and this helps you to select according to your personal preference. If you need any help, try ceylon or South Africa’s Rooibos tea, as I did today, the colour on both is perfect for the summer.
Always ask the waiting team for a description of the food selection, you don’t want any surprises. Don’t get carried away with the scones, they fill you up quickly. I suggest you eat your way up and always leave room for the delicious cakes found on the upper tier.
Finally, don’t get worked up! Afternoon tea is meant to be fun and relaxing. It’s also an opportunity to go back in time and imagine having a cuppa with Duchess Anna so don’t ruin it by focusing too much on your etiquette, but try not to break to many of the rules either. Get the balance right and enjoy a good old cuppa.
With love this Summer From TasteWithPrinny!