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National Afternoon Tea Week


National Afternoon Tea Week

Quintessentially British, the tradition of taking a little light refreshment to prevent that mid-afternoon sinking feeling has been with us since the middle of the 19th Century. We’ve Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford to thank for inventing the meal, when, in fear of passing out while waiting till 8pm for dinner to be served, she ordered a pot of tea and a tray of sandwiches and cakes to go with it. Even Queen Victoria was amused by the idea and with her endorsement the simple afternoon meal grew into a lavish and fancy social event, especially in the upper echelons of Victorian society.

We love having afternoon tea. It’s a really affordable, yet indulgent, treat, so we’re delighted that there’s a whole week dedicated to celebrating it (although we question who needs to restrict celebrating afternoon tea to one week in the year?)

National Afternoon Tea Week 2017 takes place from 14th to 20th August, bang in the middle of the prime holiday season, when the sun will shine and visitors from home and abroad will have time to appreciate that bit of elegance and pomp that comes with taking afternoon tea.

Deciding what to serve is quite straightforward – neat little sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, plus some dainty cakes. And of course, a proper pot of tea, preferably loose leaf (not forgetting the tea strainer), but we won’t complain too loudly at tea bags as long as they’re mashing in the teapot, not at the side of it waiting to be dunked!

However, there are some issues to consider:

Who pours the tea?

Often a troublesome dilemma as to who should ‘be Mum’. Apparently, according to Debretts, those experts on etiquette, if the waiter places the teapot on the table without pouring the tea, it’s the person nearest the pot whose duty it is to pour tea for everyone. So take care to place the teapot next to a responsible adult!

But is it milk or tea first?

This depends on the crockery. Fancy bone china needs protecting from the heat of the tea, so in this case it should be milk first. If your crockery is more robust then it matters less which order the tea and milk go in. Unless you’re drinking it black with a squeeze of lemon!

Are you serving scons or scones?

Some say it’s geographical thing – Northerners say scon, those further south say scone. The dictionary doesn’t help much, saying either pronunciation is acceptable. Whichever you use, you’ll be understood. But here’s another dilemma. Should your scons or scones have fruit in them or be plain? And another. Should it be cream or jam on first? And what about butter. Yes or no?

What should go in the sandwiches?

Someone made a simple suggestion – jam ham or cucumber. It’s an interesting thought as we’d never considered jam, but agreed it would be great for children’s afternoon tea. Ham of course is traditional, but should it be smoked or plain, roast or boiled? Should it be served with mustard? And if so what type – English, French, Dijon, wholegrain? On brown, white or granary bread? And that’s just one sandwich option. When you start to factor in cheese (just how many types are there?) or eggs (sliced, mashed with mayonnaise or salad cream, with cress or watercress) or tuna or salmon or …

Well – to be truly British your afternoon tea must include cucumber sandwiches. In brown bread. According to scientific research, cucumber sandwiches are very good for us. They regulate body temperature and stave off dehydration. But should they be served with crusts on or off? Cut into triangles or squares. Or oblongs?


So much choice. Talk to your Total Foodservice sales team for your requirements, then Just Keep Calm and Carry On – and enjoy!


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