The Afternoon Tea is thought to have been introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840, and it’s been an English tradition ever since. Think fine finger sandwiches, sweet miniature cakes, and warm scones with plenty of jam and cream, it’s a delicious tradition and it’s easy to see why it’s stood the test of time. If you’re looking to indulge in the heritage custom in a historic town, why not try it at The Fellows House Cambridge? Or why not take the advice of their Head Chef Claudiu Taban, if you want to recreate the ultimate afternoon tea at home.

Understand the Origin

Afternoon tea originated in Britain in the early 19th century, credited to Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. In the late afternoon, she would often feel hungry between lunch and dinner, so she started having a light meal consisting of tea and small snacks like sandwiches and cakes. This practice soon became popular among the British aristocracy and eventually spread throughout society.

The Timing

Afternoon tea is typically served between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. This time frame falls between lunch and dinner and provides a perfect opportunity to take a break from the day’s activities and enjoy some relaxation and indulgence.

The Components

A traditional afternoon tea consists of three main components: sandwiches, scones, and pastries. The sandwiches are usually delicate and small, with fillings like cucumber, smoked salmon, or egg salad. Scones, served with clotted cream and jam, are a quintessential part of the experience. Finally, pastries such as cakes, tarts, and petits fours add a sweet touch to the spread.

Aft Tea 5
Aft Tea 5

Tea Selection

Tea is, of course, central to the afternoon tea experience. A variety of high-quality teas are typically offered, including black, green, and herbal teas. Popular choices include Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and Assam. It’s essential to brew the tea properly, allowing it to steep for the appropriate amount of time to achieve the desired flavor.

Etiquette and Atmosphere

Afternoon tea is as much about the ambiance as it is about the food and drink. The setting should be elegant yet comfortable, with linen napkins, and perhaps even live music to enhance the experience. When enjoying afternoon tea, remember to observe proper etiquette, such as holding the teacup by the handle, stirring tea gently, and using utensils to eat the sandwiches and pastries.

In summary, traditional afternoon tea is a cherished ritual that celebrates British culture and hospitality. By understanding its origins, observing the proper timing, savoring the delicious components, selecting quality tea, and embracing the etiquette and atmosphere, you can fully appreciate the charm and elegance of this timeless tradition.

Address: The Fellows House Cambridge, Curio Collection by Hilton
33A Milton Road, 
Cambridge, CB4 1UZ UK