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July 2022

The History Of Afternoon Tea 

big chocolate cake

Afternoon tea is an English tradition that originated in 1840 by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess complained about ‘having that sinking feeling’ around late afternoon. With most evening meals scheduled to be served at eight o’clock, she found herself becoming hungry around four o’clock.

The Duchess wanted something small to please her appetite, nothing too large or too small. From this want, the afternoon tea ritual was born. The Duchess would request a tray of tea, bread, butter, and cake to be brought to her room most afternoons. It soon became a routine, and she began inviting friends to join her.

Classed as a luxury

In the nineteenth century, tea was seen as a luxury item, so much so that it was kept under lock and key in tea caddies. Afternoon tea became an important opportunity for women to socialize and show off their fashionable manners, as well as expensive ‘tea things’ including Chinese porcelain cups, tea-pots, special tea tables and chairs.

Organising a tea table with their finest luxury equipment became a tradition of middle-class women, as they were keen to demonstrate their wealth.

Who had access to afternoon tea?

Tea was a fine delicacy during the 1800s, which meant that tradition would take place in the houses of the rich. Upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats when attend-ing an afternoon tea. When summer came around, you were able to enjoy your afternoon tea in the sun, meaning the men of the house could join. 

Fun Fact: Rich and wealthy families would have their portraits painted with exquisite tea sets so peo-ple would know their extreme wealth.

The evolution of afternoon tea in england

By the 1920s, afternoon tea went from a few cakes and cups of tea to a highly fashionable social event held by England’s elite upper-class families. More than 200 guests would be invited between 4pm and 7pm. The house's servants would serve guests a variety of sandwiches, cakes, and pastries as well as the best kind of tea they were able to get their hands on.

Along with luxury, elegance and etiquette, afternoon tea had to be served in the finest, elegant teapots and china teacups. How the times have changed. Tea drinking began to move out of the house and into public spaces, where men and women could meet and chat over tea in public. During the Victorian period, tea be-came a lot cheaper and tea shops opened, catering for tea drinkers of all different classes.

Madame Valerie's Afternoon Tea - Patisserie Valerie
Madame Valerie's Afternoon Tea - Patisserie Valerie
Madame Valerie's Afternoon Tea - Patisserie Valerie
Madame Valerie's Afternoon Tea - Patisserie Valerie

Madame Valerie's Afternoon Tea

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Afternoon tea tradition today

Fast forward to the 21st century, afternoon tea provides a way to spend quality time with friends and family, celebrating, chatting, or just simply relaxing with your feet up.

Whatever the occasion, be sure to raise your cup to the Duchess of Bedford who invented the delightful ritual. 

Our delicious Patisserie Valerie afternoon tea can be delivered straight to your door. Order yours online today, available for next day delivery.