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Afternoon Tea: A Very British Tradition

Today marks the start of Afternoon Tea week. Rebecca Galland, Restaurant Manager at The Vineyard, takes us back in time to the origins of this most delicious British tradition.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea all started with Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the early 1800’s who coined the phrase of having the ‘sinking feeling’ which was how she felt in the middle of the afternoon when breakfast had been worked off.

At that time there were only two meals a day one in the morning and one in the evening. Dinner was served later and later in the day. To remedy her feeling, Anna started having tea, usually Darjeeling, and a cake in her boudoir in the afternoon. She enjoyed it so much that she began to invite her friends to join her at her country house Woburn Abbey where she and her husband Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford, lived in the Summer. Eventually when the season ended and she returned to London she the continued this habit in the city. More and more people started to hear of it in her social circle and in the 1840’s Afternoon Tea quickly became fashion amongst the wealthy classes.

It is worth noting that this ‘Afternoon Tea’ that Anna started is not to be confused with what is known as ‘high’ tea which usually refers to the meal the lower classes would have, complete with a hot dish, followed by cakes and bread, which was all about the height of the tables.

Nowadays, Afternoon Tea is usually served on a stand and it led to a phenomenon that has swept the globe, albeit still a very British tradition.