Taking afternoon tea is a very typical and quintessentially English way to while away the latter part of the day.
Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o'clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.
Later friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.
My rules for first time Afternoon Tea-ers
1) Wear elasticated waistband. Not trendy but trying to re-position a bloated torso, mid cream scone is not easy.
2) 1st Layer- Sandwiches.
Don't be a sandwich hero. The sandwiches are very tasty but make the mistake of having too many could come back to bite you once the scones and cream are 'active'
3) Be safe on the tea choice. A good service will offer you a wide range of exotic tea's with elaborate descriptions. Stick to what you know! or you'll end up drinking something that tastes like a mixture of liquorice and burnt underwear*
4) Do not be tempted to 'raise the pinkie' while sipping the tea. We really don't do it anymore.
5) 2nd Layer - Cream scones
Be prepared to feel sick after these tasty morsels have been consumed. The temptation is, of course, to load the jam and cream on the 1st scone but pace yourself - this is the critical point to staying in the game - the two scones will become 4 small plates for clotted cream and jam.
6) Be polite - and not be the 1st to grab the cream but in contrast do not let yourself be the last. Some people cannot of fail work out the proportions and are prone to make the mistake set out in section 5. Grrr!
7) Take more tea at this point, you WILL need it
8) Now take a walk, to the toilet or make a call in the garden anything just get out of there before you tackle the cakes. Many fade and are lost at the scones point which usually indicates a novice 'tea-er' (I'm laughing as I write this)
9) You're nearly home and dry, get your head around which cake you will take, (not literally, as fingers and/or cake fork are expected in polite circles). Take a light sponge/low cream option as comments are now being passed around the table ranging from;
'It is all lovely but I've reached adequate sufficiency.........or
'I never want to see another cake as long as I live'.........to
'Out of my way, I'm going to be sick'
10) The time comes to extricate yourself from, first the table and then the room, without drawing attention to the fact that you are struggling to walk and at this point you will thank me for the elasticated waistband tip.
*I have never eaten burnt underwear....sober
Chirton Grange Ltd