Afternoon tea, a cherished British tradition, is typically enjoyed between 3 pm and 5 pm. It offers a delightful combination of snacks and tea, providing a moment of respite in the afternoon to unwind and indulge in leisurely moments.
The act of savoring tea and small delectable treats aids in relieving tension and reducing stress. The customary afternoon tea menu typically encompasses a selection of tea alongside an array of delightful snacks, including tea biscuits, pastries, sandwiches, and fruits.
A notable feature of English afternoon tea is the use of black tea, with popular variants being black tea and Earl Grey. During the tea ceremony, a teapot is filled with hot water, accompanied by the addition of tea leaves, resulting in a flavorful brew of robust black tea.
Often, a tea attendant takes on the role of pouring tea for the guests. The caffeine and amino acids present in tea enhance brain alertness, fostering concentration and focus. Consuming tea in moderation promotes wakefulness and aids in improving work efficiency.
In addition to tea, traditional English afternoon tea boasts an assortment of exquisite snacks. For instance, tea biscuits, known as scones, are a beloved choice, typically served with jam and cream.
Pastries are also an integral part of afternoon tea, featuring delicacies such as macarons, profiteroles, and Swiss rolls.
Sandwiches, filled with a variety of ingredients such as butter, egg salad, fish, or meat slices, are also commonly enjoyed. Furthermore, fresh fruits are often included, providing a refreshing touch to the afternoon tea experience.
The origin of afternoon tea can be traced back to early 19th century England. Its roots lie in the era of Queen Victoria, where it initially served as a social activity primarily enjoyed by the upper class. Various theories exist regarding the origin of afternoon tea, but two significant accounts are as follows:
Duchess Anna's account suggests that afternoon tea emerged in England during the 1840s. Allegedly, Anna, the Duchess of Bedford and a close confidante of Queen Victoria experienced hunger pangs around 3 pm due to the late dinner schedule.
To alleviate her hunger, she started partaking in tea and light snacks around 5 pm. She invited friends to join her, establishing the tradition of afternoon tea.
According to Henry, a tea merchant, afternoon tea owes its beginnings to Chinese tea culture and its association with the tea trade between Britain and China. Henry William Pitt, an English tea merchant, encountered Chinese tea customs during his business ventures in the early 19th century.
Inspired by this, he endeavored to introduce the tea culture to the UK, offering tea and snacks around 5 pm to entice more people to embrace tea consumption. His innovation eventually led to the establishment of the afternoon tea custom.
While elements of truth may exist in both narratives, afternoon tea rapidly gained popularity during the Victorian era in England and evolved into a significant social event. Subsequently, it spread to numerous countries and regions, becoming a beloved cultural custom embraced worldwide.