“Would you like an adventure now or shall we have tea first?” -Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland
As I previously mentioned in another post, I LOVE TEA. I am not a coffee person whatsoever so tea is the only thing that will get me up in the morning and keep me sane throughout the day. The British are known for drinking tea and are mocked because of how important it is to them but I see no problem with drinking tea more than water. I was able to attend two afternoon teas, as they are not a common meal anymore.
First, I want to go a little bit into the background of tea. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a boring essay. I just want to share some of the history I’ve learned about this tradition because of how significant it is and how many different meanings it holds. So tea does not just refer to a cup of tea. Tea can also signify the meal of dinner, as the lower class would call it, or afternoon tea or high tea, as the upper classes would call their mid day snack. The “afternoon snack” tea came about when the Duchess of Bedford was visiting the 5th Duke of Rutland in the mid 1840’s and began to feel hungry between lunch and dinner. The gap between lunch and dinner had become longer due to the invention of artificial light that kept people at work longer or out with friends longer. She decided to have the servants bring her sweets, little sandwiches, and tea. Afternoon tea eventually morphed into a meal in which women could socialize with each other without the presence of a man. Now, it’s a bit expensive to have afternoon tea and people don’t really set up an tea every day. It’s more so for celebrations and many hotels and tea rooms will have special afternoon teas, some being themed!
While in London, I attended two afternoon teas; one was for my Food, Society, and Culture in Britain class and the other was an Alice in Wonderland themed tea that I had been planning to attend for over 6 months!
The afternoon tea we attended for class was a very classic setting. We started off with tea and then the food came out. We were told to eat a very light meal because afternoon teas tend to fill you up, so I was starving by the time we got there. First, we got an assortment of sandwiches that were absolutely delicious! Next came the scones and pastries, which were gone as quickly as they were brought out. By the end, I was stuffed and satisfied.
Now the Alice in Wonderland themed tea was beyond amazing! From the hotel’s garden to the food served was worth its price. Luckily, my friends and I got VIP seating so we were lead to a table in the back, tucked behind some trees. It really felt we were in a forest, away from civilization and screaming children. The table was beautifully set with matching dishes and a set of tea cards with descriptions of available teas. We were served a passion fruit cocktail, frosted with sugar. Next, the sandwiches, scones, and pastries made their way out, dressed for the themed. Checkered boards, clocks, mushrooms, and caterpillars filled the three tiers. It was so much fun to dress up and have a nice afternoon tea with friends. It really transports you to a different world, away from all the stresses of writing papers and studying for finals. I completely understand why the Brits love their tea time!
Until next time, Cheers!