Recently a good friend of mine tweeted a comment regarding a queuing system at a barbers – and how men always seem to know exactly who is next, no matter how many people there are in that said queue. It made me smile, thinking he was right (not that I would know – it has been many years since the barbers have laid their hands on my bald head!). The next day, whilst walking down the canal towpath, it made me feel good how many people pleasantly greeted me – and yet I thought to myself if they saw me in the high street, they probably wouldn’t make eye contact. Does this happen in other countries – or is it a British thing?! It made me think of being British, and what is unique about our nation – and I think one British event truly sums it up – The Traditional Afternoon Tea.
Just as our Mediterranean friends are known for their siestas, and our American friends known for their over excited natures – Britain could soon become a nation known for Afternoon Tea eccentrics.
Now for those who know me (or those that have seen me), will know that I am not one to turn down a cake , pastry or anything sweet for that matter – and so chances of me ever losing a pound or two are pretty remote. So I suppose if you could tempt me with any meal of the day – it would have to be the one in the afternoon where you can eat plenty of sandwiches, cakes and pastries!
Luckily for me, during my years in hospitality I have sampled many offerings – and all continued to persuade me to delve into the cake, as oppose to divulging into the cornflakes!
Afternoon has been around since the early nineteenth century and it is claimed to be the introduction of the 7th Duchess of Bedford who is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon (I know this feeling very well). The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon (I generally adopt the same solution by taking a handful of cakes, sweets and crisps to the office in the afternoon!).
Friends later joined her in her rooms and she went on to send cards to her friends asking them to join her for tea. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon – and so Afternoon Tea began…..
So many (good) hotels and establishments offer great afternoon teas. In my opinion, you would struggle to find better than that served at The Dorchester, London. Now I’m not one for ‘snooty’ posh hotels – which is sometimes how people look at anything in the Mayfair/Park Lane area of the capital. On the contrary – The compulsory shirt & tie that is dictated by some other leading London establishments, means that after a morning of relaxed shopping on Oxford Street, a quick 10 minute stroll and you can walk through the door of the Hotel being welcomed by the exceptionally polite, well trained and accommodating team. Sure, you will pay for the whole experience and ambience (currently starting from £38.50pp) – but in my opinion worth every penny.
Generally you are served fresh finger sandwiches, (with no crusts on of course!), warmed scones, delicious homemade cream cakes – and a belly full of your choice from 162 (roughly) teas and coffees, with the background pianist, and all washed down with the option of a glass of the bubbles for those who don’t mind the afternoon sleepy feel.
Surprisingly Afternoon Tea is now becoming more common all over the country – Some popular haunts are Betty’s Tea Rooms in Yorkshire (www.bettys.co.uk); Newly introduced ‘Tea at The Court’ at Ullesthorpe Court Hotel (www.bw-ullesthorpecourt.co.uk); Afternoon Tea in the Orangery at Kilworth House (www.kilworthhouse.co.uk) who also offer scheduled Tea Dances throughout the year with their very own Jazz Band. Wherever you go you’ll be offered their very own twist to the way in which afternoon tea is served nowadays.
My advice to you all – If you think that Afternoon Tea is for the ‘oldies’ – think again! More and more youngsters/middle aged people are enjoying this mealtime – and I for one will continue to support this wonderful British tradition.