Tea Time!

I have asked one of our readers and fellow blogger to guest blog for us today!

Once we open, we will be available for Afternoon Tea Parties for social groups.

So I thought it would be great fun to get some information on teas from an expert. 

Please enjoy!

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

As an institution, the event known as afternoon tea followed on from an ancient Oriental social custom. It came to prominence in the 17th century when it became established as an ‘event’ for the lady of the household.

A lady of wealth and privilege wouldn’t dream of going to an Hotel or coffee house, they being male dominated places where business and politics would be freely discussed and so she would invite her friends for an ‘at home’ of tea, gossip and hopefully scandal.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

It was also an occasion where one could shove one’s wealth and rank firmly up the noses of one’s contemporaries and social equals and conduct the serious business of one-up-man-ship. Amongst ladies of rank and privilege the main criteria for an invitation to tea to be offered or accepted were wealth, property and social standing. Tea at that time was a highly expensive and valuable commodity and therefore the mere invitation to tea was an ostentatious gesture.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Being so precious the tea caddy became an important a fixture. It would be a solid box (or mini-safe) to which only the Hostess, or possibly a very trustworthy housekeeper, held the keys. Its presence said immediately that one was sufficiently ‘well-heeled’ to provide tea in the first place. Nowadays it would be the equivalent of inviting the neighbours over for drinks and then providing them with only the finest French champagne! The number of servants on hand to actually serve the guests was also a major plus factor in the social status stakes!

Queen Victoria by Bassano

Queen Victoria by Bassano

During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) afternoon tea began to expand into more of a small meal. The growth in industrialisation and the coming of a reliable artificial light meant that working hours could be extended beyond the restrictions imposed by natural daylight. As the gap between lunch and dinner became longer and longer afternoon tea, of necessity increased in variety and content with the addition of finger sandwiches, biscuits, savouries and cake, in order to fill the gap.

An American Tea Clipper at Sea

An American Tea Clipper at Sea

When, as time passed, the supply of tea from distant lands (India, China, Ceylon) increased in quantity due to the development of faster methods of transportation during the course of the Industrial Revolution, tea began to come within the reach of middle class purses and, eager to emulate the landed upper classes, they rapidly adopted the custom.

Gradually, along with the sandwiches and savouries, rich cakes, iced fancies, glazed pastries and sweetmeats from a bygone era were rediscovered and added to the ‘menu’ Afternoon tea became, for the aspirational Hostess to display her abilities in producing an interesting and exotic array of goodies for ‘The Ladies’ as well as the beverage itself.

At this time of course the Master of The House would be out and about with social, business and financial concerns. The rapidly expanding ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ market would provide for him with such niceties when ‘in town on business’ and of course any children would be confined to the nursery or playroom with a nurse or guardian to enjoy their own, more light-hearted tea-time and to keep them out of sight!

It would not be until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when women would become suitably emboldened and emancipated to go ‘out to tea’ at places like the Ritz, Selfidges and Harrods for their socialising but that is for another post.

Kevin Houghton

Granny Robertsons Cookbook

A Social, Cultural and Culinary Archive of Great Britain in the 20th Century

http://kayjayaitch.wordpress.com

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37 thoughts on “Tea Time!

  1. Deb says:

    Thank you for the post. I am now craving scones, clotted cream and strawberry preserves!

  2. elskenewman says:

    Great post, very interesting. Glad I had a cup of tea to sip whilst reading 🙂

  3. What a great invention afternoon tea was! Especially with all those delights on the table.

  4. Janet Rörschåch says:

    I can’t wait. I’ll be the person hanging onto the gate, tea cup in hand, pleadingly whispering, “Open, open, open.”

  5. terry1954 says:

    very interesting. I knew that tea was a specialty and hard to get at one time

  6. Oh, it does my heart good to hear of the rebirth of the “old” traditions. Here’s to much success to your lovely teas! Thanks, Kevin for the good information!

  7. lavenderlin says:

    I sure am glad tea became available to the rest of us as I am a tea addict. 🙂 Thanks for the history and for stopping by my blog.

  8. A very informative post. I’ve never had the honor of a real “tea” although they have them in my area at local historical sites. I will make a point to visit. Thanks for this post.

  9. lynnwyvill says:

    I love going to tea! The pictures reminded that I’m overdo for a proper tea time!

  10. I love that you are implementing the “afternoon tea.” There seems to be a big come back for them. We have a mansion here that is going to offer them this summer.

  11. I am a coffee drinker but i do love going to “tea”. I really have a wonderful time.

  12. John says:

    I have moved back into WP.com, thought you may want to know. Sorry for the bother. John

    http://ourretiredlife.org/

  13. cmblake6 says:

    Stationed in England for 12 years, married to an English woman with a fairly good size, I knew most of that but not all. Fascinating to learn those extra few details that had never been completely explained. Thanks!

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