Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Once only enjoyed by those of the upper echelons of society, today afternoon teas are a way for all of us to connect with friends and family ... and enjoy some yummy treats!
Afternoon tea (not to be confused with high tea, something different indeed!) originated in 1840 by Anna, Dutchess of Bedford. At the time, dinners were served fashionably late at around 8 o'clock. The Dutchess would get hungry for a light snack around 4 and request that some tea and sandwiches be brought to her room. Most likely she was served a pot of darjeeling tea with bread and butter.
After becoming quite routine with her daily afternoon tea and snack, she began inviting her friends over to join her. She would send out cards to invite ladies over for some tea followed by a walk in the fields. Afternoon tea would be a great way for ladies to catch up on the latest events and news.
The light snack slowly evolved into more elaborate crustless finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and preserves, and delicate desserts provided on tiered trays. Often served on low tables in the ladies parlor, afternoon tea was also known as "low tea" and became quite popular among members of the upper class in England. These members of society could afford the extra food between lunch and dinner and had the time to host such events.
Today, our busy lives do not lend well to a routine afternoon tea. However, afternoon teas are still served as a way to celebrate or commemorate special occasions.