Happy National Tea Day, everyone! Today, April 21st, is a day celebrated annually in Britain to recognise and celebrate British tea culture. It's a day to celebrate everything related to tea in Britain - from the different types of tea to the rituals
Many cultures have rituals surrounding the drinking of tea. In Britain, the quintessential tea ritual is afternoon tea. I say it’s a ritual because when we have afternoon tea, we stop, slow down, spend quality time with friends, and focus our attention on a good pot of tea and good food. This National Tea Day we want to focus on afternoon tea and bring your attention to the importance of the tea itself.
Afternoon tea, a quintessentially British tradition, has a rich and interesting history. Dating back to the mid-1800s, when most people only ate two meals a day and dinner was typically served quite late in the evening, afternoon tea was created to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, is credited with inventing the tradition of afternoon tea. She would become hungry in the late afternoon and ask her servants to bring her tea and a light snack. Soon, she began inviting friends to join her for this daily ritual, and it became a popular social event.
Afternoon tea quickly became fashionable among the upper classes and soon spread throughout Britain. During the Victorian era, afternoon tea was a way for the wealthy to socialise. It was common for the hostess to provide an elaborate spread of sandwiches, cakes, pastries, and scones, all served on fine china and silverware. Afternoon tea was also an opportunity for women to gather and discuss their interests and concerns, as it was one of the few occasions where women could socialise without male chaperones. It became a way for women to assert their independence and autonomy, contributing to the rise of the suffragette movement in the early 20th century.
Today, afternoon tea is much loved throughout the country. It is a chance to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy a moment of relaxation with friends and family. It’s still a cherished social event. The modern custom of having afternoon tea in Luxury hotels or quaint tea shops has made it more of a special occasion. Many hotels offer luxurious afternoon tea experiences, complete with a selection of beautiful and delicious sandwiches, cakes, and pastries. This is fitting, given the history of afternoon tea as a pick-me-up between lunch and dinner. However, we feel that that the tea itself is often neglected. Many places serve poor quality tea bags or loose leaf tea and there usually a small selection. The tea served should complement the cakes and sandwiches and elevate the whole experience. The tea can be just as exciting a part of the ritual as the food.
Our suggestion is to go with a good Indian tea. The fragrance of a delicate first-flush Darjeeling brings an extra sensory element to the experience, while the stone-fruit notes and fresh bitterness balance out the sweetness of the cakes. The rich fruitiness of a second-flush Darjeeling complements many fruit-forward cakes and pastries. A strong malty Assam is a good accompaniment to heavier cakes.
For afternoon tea in Edinburgh we recommend The Caledonian Hotel. They serve a delicious selection of sandwiches and cakes, while not overlooking the importance of the tea. They have a wide selection excellent teas supplied by none other than PekoeTea. You can order our Rohini Jethi Kupi first-flush Darjeeling, Gopalharah 2nd flush Darjeeling, and Mokalbari Assam, as well as classics like breakfast tea.
Afternoon tea has evolved from being an essential meal to get through the day to being a special time when we allow ourselves to take a breath and focus our attention on enjoying tea and cakes with our closest friends. This little ritual deserves the very best tea. So on this National Tea Day we’d like to encourage you.