A Quintessentially British Past time… Afternoon Tea


When we heard this week is National Afternoon Tea Week, well, we just knew this was something we had to get involved in. Put simply; if it’s a celebration that includes food, Vale of Mowbray HQ are celebrating it. Our top three requirements of our quintessentially British afternoon tea include scones, a chicken sandwich and a pork pie – obviously.

Afternoon tea originated around 1840 when the Duchess of Bedford, Anna would get hungry between lunch and dinner – don’t we all! At this time, their dinner was served at around 8pm as was the fashion. It began by her requesting tea and a snack alone in her boudoir, before she began to invite friends. It was during the 1880’s it became a fashionable event – the upper class and society women would dress for afternoon tea in long gowns, gloves and hats for the occasion – it was usually served in the drawing room. A traditional afternoon tea usually included dainty sandwiches, scones with cream, cakes and pastries.

The ‘At Home’ tea at this time even had announcements which were sent to relatives and friends to join them for afternoon tea stating the time it would be served. Whilst there would sometimes be entertainment too, more often than not it was a chance to partake in idle gossip. There was at least one person holding the ‘at home’ everyday so these society women were very social! Tea Parties meant that Tea Rooms and Tea Gardens sprung up everywhere to cater for the Brits love of tea and cake.

World War I and World War II dramatically changed the tradition, especially during the tea rationing which continued into the 1950s, but the tradition did survive into the mid 20th century despite this. At this time, coffee bars did seem to take over our love for tea and the tradition seemed to remain simply for the tourists. During the 21st century, it’s returned with a bang! With the Ritz in London having an afternoon tea which is one of the hardest to book in the capital and at home in Yorkshire, there’s queues around the block to get into Betty’s for their afternoon tea, we can safely say us Brits love the custom and it appears here to stay!

There’s little more quintessentially British than a fashionable afternoon tea and we love to indulge in the tradition!

We thought we’d talk you through two of our favourite afternoon teas we’ve created; a traditional option and a gentleman’s afternoon tea. Which would you choose?

Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea

Our Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea basically involved us taking all our favourite foods and drinks and put them all together in one meal. Mini pork pies and mini pickle pork pies, chicken and avocado sandwiches, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and mini pizzas. What could be more delicious! Coupled with our favourite craft beers and an (admittedly rather large) glass of whiskey! The major difference between this version and a traditional afternoon tea is that we’ve not got as many sweet treats in this one – just little pots of a raspberry cream dessert. This is fully customisable though; if you’ve got a sweet tooth, feel free to swap in some desserts! Accompaniments wise, we went for a Branston Pickle and a mustard side. When sharing this with others it’s important to come to a compromise as to what everyone will like in terms of sauces!

A Traditional Afternoon Tea

This is our take on a more traditional afternoon tea. Overwhelmingly focused on the sweet treats, whilst the cupcakes are homemade, we’d like to take this moment to admit the chocolate biscuits and mini rolls are shop bought. Top tip: taking baked goods out of their shop wrapping and put them on pretty china plates and pretend you’ve made everything from scratch and spent hours in the kitchen is completely acceptable in our book…

Sandwich wise, we had egg and watercress and salmon and cucumber. Whilst it’s traditional to have cucumber, we’re more of the mind that you can have whatever you’d like – don’t ever let anyone determine your sandwich flavour!

How are you celebrating the week? You might be able to tell we’re just happy to have an excuse to eat pork pie and cake!

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