The History of Brit’s Afternoon Tea

British and its Traditional History of Tea

3 min readMay 5, 2021
Photo by Rachel Cheng on Unsplash

In Britain, tea is consumed almost regularly and afternoon tea is one of the most conventional and classic British customs. There is a long history behind the Brit’s custom of tea drinking which goes way back to the 17th century. At that time, tea was known to be an upscale and high-priced commodity, thus, only the affluent class was able to afford it.

The custom of tea drinking was first introduced in the English Royal Court by Catherine of Braganza (wife of Charles II) and from there this custom was embraced by the aristocrats. In 1717, the first tea shop was started by Thomas Twinning only for the ladies at that time, and later on, it was being available to everyone throughout England.

After this hot beverage became more convenient and affordable, it gained popularity among the middle classes also and they were eager to hoist their social status through the tea customs. Thus, they ardently adopted the rituals of the highborn society. Hence, some might argue that it was the social etiquette surrounding the drinking of tea that exhibited its intrinsic Britishness.

The afternoon tea:

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” — Henry James

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In 1840, the notion of afternoon tea was first introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. At that time, dinner used to be taken around 8.00 pm, thus, during the long period between lunch and dinner, the Duchess would get hungry around the afternoon and would ask for tea with desserts to be brought into her room. Later on, she would invite her friends over for the afternoon tea and the custom of afternoon tea began. Since then afternoon tea has been perceived as a fashionable social gathering in which women from highborn society would dress up in long gowns, hats, and gloves and enjoy their afternoon tea in their drawing room at four or five o’clock.

Photo by Maria Lupan on Unsplash

Usually, the traditional afternoon tea was served in delicate bone china cups along with dainty sandwiches, for instance, sliced cucumber sandwiches, scones served with preserves and cream, cakes, and pastries a. Nowadays, afternoon tea is usually served in a mug along with a small cake or biscuit.

In present days, tea is still renowned as the national drink of Britain and it continues to be immensely savoured among Brits. Since the social customs surrounding tea were introduced by the highborn society, the drinking of tea remains with its undeniable ritual and customs.

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