London is a city well known for its historic traditions and fine dining opportunities. Whether you’re a guest of Central London hotel special offers or you’re visiting the city for work, it’s hard not to experience at least some of the history of London. From the remains of the London wall to the red-clad guards of the palace, the city is teeming with history and traditions that have endured into the modern day.
One such tradition is that of afternoon tea. A truly British passtime,afternoon tea has less seen a resurgence in recent years and more has been elevated from informal gathering into a dining event. This is in part thanks to modern spins on the mealtime that have been propelled by art galleries, event spaces and boutique Hyde Park restaurants in London. So what is afternoon tea and how can newcomers to London enjoy the relaxing and refreshing between-meals meal?
What Is Afternoon Tea?
Afternoon tea is a British “meal” time that falls somewhere between lunch and dinner. Sometimes considered a late lunch or an early dinner, it’s the choice of the participant as to whether afternoon tea replaces either of the aforementioned meals. Usually consisting of finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and a vast selection of teas, this pastime has its roots in Victorian England.
History Of Afternoon Tea
Back in the 1840s, Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, Lady of the Bedchamber for and good friend of Queen Victoria brought the pastime of Afternoon Tea into the mainstream. Due to the increasingly late start of dinner for the upper classes of Victorian England and the comparatively early lunches, Russell found that around 4 or 5 pm, her energy would begin to wane. This is understandable, with such a long gap between the two meals for a class of people unencumbered by the sunrise to sunset hardships of rural farmers, the upper classes had more time to think about – and fret about their appetite.
Anna Russell staved off late afternoon hunger utilising the Victorian traditions of “social engagements”, often inviting her friends to her drawing room or bedchamber for an afternoon tea and a bite to eat. As a woman of social prominence, her new routine quickly found its way into the rest of Victorian England’s upper classes and then trickled down into the middle and working classes too.
Where To Find Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is now readily available across much of London and often further afield too. The Grand Royale hotel Bayswater is just one of many hotels that advertise afternoon tea menus, whilst groups such as Sketch – a company who organise afternoon teas within contemporary art exhibitions and incredibly photogenic interiors have evolved afternoon tea into something of a cultural phenomenon. Whether you want it traditional or progressive, there’s an afternoon tea menu for every type of tourist in London.
Tips For Making The Most Of Your Afternoon Tea
It’s unsurprising that afternoon tea, as a Victorian invention, comes with a range of social rules and etiquettes. Whilst breaking these rules in the modern world won’t lead to the same sort of social embarrassment as was constantly fretted about in the Victorian era, it’s still good to know the social cues and traditions that surround afternoon tea.
A Dress-Up Occasion
In part because of afternoon tea’s performance within slightly fancier venues like accommodation in Hyde Park London, it is often the norm to dress a little more formally than you might generally in the afternoon. Smart casual is the usual etiquette but it’s worth remembering that due to the hybridised and busy era in which we live, there may be many people in the dining room you are enjoying your tea in who are not participating and therefore less formally dressed. It’s for this reason that we stress that “dressing up” is merely a guideline and need not be strictly implemented for your afternoon tea.
You’ll usually find that there is a long list of teas from which to pick. Depending on the establishment, you may be allowed to pick a few different ones but it’s always worth trying something that you haven’t before. The world of tea is an extensive and versatile one, and the sign of a good afternoon tea menu is one that showcases flavours you may not have ever heard of before.
You Can Ask For Seconds
Don’t be afraid to ask for seconds during your afternoon tea. The menu is often so delicious that you may want to try some more. Afterall, it’s not everyday that you’re faced with such a large amount of cakes, scones and hot drink flavours.
Treat It As A Meal
Tea is just one component of this much-loved British pastime. The finger sandwiches, cakes and scones also tantalise with many options and forms of delicacy. Due to this, you might leave feeling considerably full up, and so it’s worth saving some space for afternoon tea and to assume that your dinner later in the evening may be one that’s lighter than usual.
Alcohol And Afternoon Tea
It’s not uncommon to have a glass of champagne with your afternoon tea. Though you might not think it, prosecco and bubbly go hand in hand with the flavour palette of this revitalising social occasion. Plus, if you’re dining out with company who you are less acquainted with, a glass of cava might help the conversation flow!
Use The Tea Strainer
The tea strainer may not be explained by your waiter, so it’s good to know that the small sieve-like utensil is an integral part of your enjoyment. Your teapot might be filled with loose leaf tea, and it can be a little unpleasant to drink a cup of tea that is filled with sediment or dried leaves. For this reason. Pour from your teapot through the tea strainer, which can be balanced on your teacup and will catch the leaves and sediment.