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We all love to indulge in a spot of Afternoon Tea, but do you know the history behind one of the Nation’s favourite luxuries?
Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna Maria Russell, 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 of tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.
The Duchess then started 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 into the drawing room. Before long, all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.
Traditionally, the upper classes would serve a ‘low’ or ‘afternoon’ tea around four o’clock, just before the fashionable promenade in Hyde Park. The lower classes would have a more substantial ‘high’ tea later in the day, at five or six o’clock, in place of a late dinner. The names derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served, high tea being served at the dinner table.
These days, afternoon tea is seen as more of a treat than an everyday occurrence; so why not treat yourself to a little piece of history at one of our Stokes Cafés?