Marion Pellicano Ambrose
It was Merry Monarch, Charles II who made tea drinking popular after his Portuguese bride arrived in
with a large chest of tea as part of her dowry. It quickly became the fashion at court and then, as now, what was the rage with the royals became widely popular throughout the nation. London
It wasn’t, however, until 1840 that having a cup of tea became a full-blown ceremony involving cakes and treats, prompted by ‘that sinking feeling’ so often experienced by so many in the middle of the afternoon, when lunch was long ago and dinner is still distant. When this afflicted Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, all those years ago, she broke with convention and asked her staff to bring not just tea to her boudoir, but some bread, butter and cake with it. Understandably, this became a hard habit to break, so she introduced it to her society friends, and before long her idea became an institution.
And so it remains to this day. It may not involve all the items considered correct for an Edwardian afternoon tea – bread and butter, five kinds of sandwich, oyster vol au vents, chicken cutlets, two creams, four jellies, an ice, and a claret cup – but formal afternoon tea is still a lavish treat, and much Edwardian etiquette remains.
’s finest establishments observe proper protocol and serve afternoon tea in the traditional manner, and there are no signs of its popularity waning. The Ritz advises booking 12 weeks ahead, and offers perhaps the best sense of Edwardian London , serving 17 types of tea, delicate sandwiches and delectable cakes in the ornate surroundings of The London Palm Court.
As usual, Americans find something wonderful and make it even better! In the
Presenting and enjoying afternoon tea is truly an art, and is a custom I believe everyone should adopt.
“Another novelty is the tea-party, an extraordinary meal in that, being offered to persons that have already dined well, it supposes neither appetite nor thirst, and has no object but distraction, no basis but delicate enjoyment.” ~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste