What could be more classically British than enjoying a sumptuous afternoon tea? Made popular amongst the English wealthy classes in the 1840s, afternoon tea is traditionally a light meal eaten between 4 pm and 6 pm to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. The Duchess Anna Maria of Bedford, is widely credited as its creator, and would often partake of afternoon tea with her friends at Woburn Abbey. Standing at the gateway to the Abbey, and part of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford’s estate, lies the historic Woburn Hotel. This lovely hotel offers the ‘Duchess Anna Maria tea’ consisting of mouth-watering finger sandwiches, homemade scones served with clotted cream and fresh fruit preserves and a selection of delicious cakes and pastries. This is currently served daily from 3.00 – 5.00 pm and costs £16.95 per person. If you want to feel like the Duchess herself, why not stroll across from a stay at The Woburn Hotel and enjoy afternoon tea in the Duchess’s very own Tea Room at the Abbey. It is clear the Duchess had a significant impact on British History with afternoon tea proving so popular that by the end of the nineteenth century it was observed by all classes alike.
“The table was laid … there were the best things with a fat pink rose on the side of each cup; hearts of lettuce, thin bread and butter, and the crisp little cakes that had been baked in readiness that morning.”
Jane Pettigrew – A Social History of Tea (National Trust 2001)
Afternoon Tea, Cream Tea or High Tea
Today, afternoon tea is more popular than ever although the various names used to describe afternoon tea can sometimes be confusing. ‘Afternoon tea’ is traditionally sandwiches, scones and a selection of cakes, served with tea. Overseas visitors might refer to British ‘afternoon tea’ as ‘high tea’ which was commonly used to describe savoury foods and a larger meal, historically taken by the lower classes. A ‘cream tea’ is usually just scones with cream and preserves served with tea. A ‘royal tea’ includes a glass of champagne with the ‘afternoon tea’ for those special occasions!
Afternoon Tea Etiquette
Most venues have a ‘smart casual’ dress code that allows men to wear trousers and smart jeans, collared shirt and clean/un-scuffed shoes. For ladies it’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up. Tea purists insist that loose or leaf tea should be used to craft the perfect cup. Six minutes of brewing time is recommended to avoid damaging the flavour of the tea. When stirring your tea it is suggested that you place your spoon in a 6 o’clock position in the cup and fold the tea towards the 12 o’ clock position whilst making sure not to ‘clink’ the spoon against the cup. The spoon must be placed on the saucer to the side of the cup after use. There is debate on whether cream or jam should be placed first upon one’s scone. The Devon tradition is cream first whilst the Cornish tradition is to put jam then cream – choices, choices!
Afternoon Tea Experiences at Classic British Hotels
If you are now hankering after an afternoon tea why not treat yourself on your next stay with us? Afternoon Tea is available to book online at most Classic British Hotels – simply add it to your stay during the booking process or speak to one of our Reservations team. Some of our favourites include –
Celebration Afternoon Tea at Marygreen Manor Hotel
Marygreen Manor Hotel’s Celebration Tea is a twist on the standard Afternoon Tea. Swap finger sandwiches for a selection of luxury savoury canapés; scones for a delicious variety of mini desserts and finally take away the cakes and pastries to replace them with a delicious assortment of petit fours all served with a glass of Prosecco or Celebration Cocktail.
Afternoon Tea with a sensational view at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa
Enjoy carefully prepared finger sandwiches, freshly made scones with Chantilly cream and homemade jam, followed by biscuits and other treats, all whilst enjoying stunning panoramic views of majestic mountains, forests and the beautiful Lake Vyrnwy.
Afternoon at Blenheim Palace when you stay at our Cotswolds hotels
Book a Champagne Afternoon Tea in the Indian Room at the magnificent Blenheim Palace when you stay at Kings Hotel, Chipping Campden; Wyck Hill House Hotel & Spa, Stow-on-the-Wold or Fosse Manor Hotel, Stow-on-the-Wold.