Tea Time Traditions: A Journey Through the UK’s Best Afternoon Teas

Afternoon tea is a cherished British tradition dating back to the 1840s when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, started inviting friends to join her for tea and light snacks to stave off hunger between lunch and a late dinner. This fashionable social ritual soon spread across Britain, evolving into an indulgent affair filled with finger sandwiches, scones, cakes, and pastries accompanied by pots of hot tea.


A traditional afternoon tea menu consists of savory and sweet delights artfully presented on tiered stands:

  • Bottom Tier: Finger sandwiches such as cucumber, smoked salmon, egg salad, and roast beef, with crusts removed
  • Middle Tier: Freshly baked scones served with clotted cream, fruit preserves, lemon curd, and herbed butter
  • Top Tier: A selection of sweets like petit fours, fruit tarts, macarons, sponge cake, and cream puffs

Of course, no afternoon tea is complete without the tea itself. Popular varieties include robust black teas like Earl Grey, Assam, and English Breakfast as well as lighter, more delicate green and herbal infusions. Milk, lemon, and sugar are the traditional accompaniments.

Types of Tea

While English Breakfast is the most classic choice, there are numerous other teas to explore:

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