From the 8th to 14th August this week, the British celebrated that quintessentially English custom of Afternoon Tea. It was time for my weekly cheat meal, and I could think of no better way to indulge.
The History of Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea was made popular in England by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, during the early nineteenth century.
It was the custom at that time, to only eat at breakfast, and then fast until dinner, around eight o’clock at night. Becoming hungry in the late afternoon, the Duchess started requesting a tray of tea, a few slices of bread, and cake be brought to her room.
Once this became a habit of hers, she began inviting friends to formally join her at her country house. This practice caught on with other upper-class women, who would change into formal clothes to dine on afternoon tea between four and five o’clock.
The Typical Afternoon Tea
There are a wide selection of hotels, spas and tea rooms serving their own take on the practice of Afternoon Tea. However, there are some common themes to expect…
- A pot with tea of your choosing, served in china cups (traditionally bone china)
- Thinly sliced sandwiches (one of which is quite often cucumber)
- Scones with clotted cream and jam
- A selection of small cakes
- Occasionally a glass of champagne
My Afternoon Tea From Waitrose
I was originally planning to dine at one of the top places in my area, but after contacting them, they seemed not to have much availability during Afternoon Tea Week, so I decided to create my own.
I chose to purchase the groceries from Waitrose, as they have a delightful selection of small and luxurious, cakes and desserts — usually two to a packet.
Lets work from the bottom to the top tier…
Clipper Organic Everyday Tea
If you’re thinking about buying organic food, then first on your list should be tea. I drink this tea from Clipper every day – the leaves are sourced from the mountains of Africa, India and Sri Lanka.
The tea tastes great, is quite strong (which works well for my rather large tea mug). Lose tea is usually the norm for dining, but call me practical – I prefer tea bags, so there’s less mess. Clipper use slightly off-white, unbleached tea bags. Many people don’t realise that those brilliant white bags that most tea comes in, has been bleached.
Moët & Chandon, Brut Impérial Champagne
It’s the House’s iconic champagne, with notes of green apple, citrus and white flowers. It tastes slightly fruiter than some other champagnes I’ve drunk, which I felt would compliment the cakes and desserts nicely.
I found a lovely loaf of Waitrose LoveLife farmhouse batch multi-seed sliced bread. I then made two sets of finger sandwiches. One sandwich with:
- Waitrose British Wiltshire cured ham and sliced President Emmental cheese
- the other with egg mayonnaise, made from a boiled egg, Waitrose Rich & Tangy wholegrain mustard mayonnaise, and some essential Waitrose salad cress
Scones are traditionally served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. But which comes first? There is a little bit of a conflict on that, between the counties of Devon and Cornwall in England.
The Devonshire folk spread clotted cream, then add a dollop of jam on top. Those in Cornwall, spread butter, then jam, and finally a dollop of cream.
- Waitrose Rich & Fruity all butter sultana scones
- Wilkin & Sons strawberry conserve
- Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream
Rhokett Cheesecake With Belgian Chocolate
An indulgent cheesecake with a rich chocolate crumb base, and piped chocolate ganache, accompanied by pieces of Belgian chocolate throughout.
Waitrose 1 — Passion Fruit Tarts
Crisp, buttery pastry, with a tangy passion fruit curd filling, and scattered with passion fruit seeds.
Waitrose 1 — Raspberry Panna Cottas
A smooth vanilla panna cotta, with a juicy raspberry compote.
Until my next cheat meal…