The History of Afternoon Tea began with tea and cakes and now includes savory sandwiches and pastry.
Afternoon Tea with all the usual suspects: tea, finger sandwiches, scones and pastry.

In the beginning….

Afternoon Tea originated with the Duchess of Bedord in the early 1800s. In that era, mealtimes were a hearty breakfast, a very light lunch, and then hours later, dinner. The Duchess said she had a ‘sinking feeling’ in the late afternoon, and thus Afternoon Tea was born, with cakes and tea served.

Before she knew it, she created a trend, and Afternoon Tea became a fashionable social gathering.

What’s the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?

There’s some confusion in the States between Afternoon Tea and High Tea.

When people say ‘High Tea,’ they probably mean Afternoon Tea. High Tea is actually a heartier meal served with hot dishes, and, in the past, at a ‘high’ table or regular table. Whereas Afternoon Tea was usually served in a less formal dining situation, meaning not in the actual dining room.

Today, Afternoon Tea, also known as Low Tea, is usually taken outside of the home, in restaurants, tea rooms or Hotel lobbies – where you’ll often see seating that includes settees, comfortable chairs and tables. The atmosphere often resembles a living room. Of course, people do throw tea parties at home – in fact, it’s part of the point of this blog.

Afternoon Tea table setting
Although there is tradition, feel free to interpret Afternoon Tea in your own way.

There’s a certain order to a traditional Afternoon Tea, once the teapot is brought to the table. Generally, savory finger sandwiches arrive first, followed by scones, and then pastries. Or they arrive on a tiered cake stand, each having their own section. That’s not to say you can’t think outside of the box, and many places that offer Afternoon Tea, are doing just that.  

Champagne Afternoon Tea

One last word…
I can’t forget the Champagne. Not a requirement, but certainly an added element of elegance served right before the tea. Or perhaps a glass of Sherry?
So, there you go, a short History of Afternoon Tea and the elements that define it.

Do you love Afternoon Tea? So do I – read about my introduction to the social repast.
Afternoon Tea with Jam