12th Aug 2021 | Food
According to the song, everything stops for tea and whilst that may be a slight exaggeration there’s no doubt that a cuppa, especially when it’s accompanied by some tasty finger food, can revive the most flagging of spirits.
If you’re on a shopping spree or toiling at work or home, afternoon tea allows the chance of a breather and a rest for weary mind and body.
It’s a chance to catch up with friends or enjoy some quality me time.
Whilst the invention of tea is hotly debated, with one legend suggesting the first brew-up occurred in China nearly 5,000 years ago, the birth of afternoon tea is widely accepted as the 1840s.
We have Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, and close confidante of Queen Victoria, to thank.
Basically, the industrial revolution brought more work to the cities, gave people more money in their pockets and more things to do on a night – especially with electricity effectively lengthening the day.
As a result, the gap between 12 noon lunch and the evening meal became longer and longer and Anna found she just couldn’t last until 8pm at night. She asked that tea, cake and sandwiches be delivered to her room at 4pm. Pleased with her brainwave, she started inviting friends to join her and a tradition was born which is celebrated each year with Afternoon Tea Week (Aug 9-15).
Like all great ideas, afternoon tea has stood the test of time by moving with the times.
The basics remain the same – tea, sandwich, cake (or scone) – ideally presented on a three-tiered cake stand and served on china crockery. However, the variety of options to tantalise taste buds has expanded globally.
Zorba’s deli fillers such as coronation chicken or egg mayonnaise are perfect for triangular sandwiches (crusts removed, of course).
Meanwhile, our dips can freshen up tradition. If you like a plain cucumber sandwich, try adding a bit of zing with some salsa, see how some tangy mango can bring the best out of beef or ham and garlic mayo can liven up the limpest of cheese and tomato sarnies.
Serving pitta bread to guests and offering a tier of houmous, tzatziki, guacamole and other dips to choose from brings a new twist to an old classic.
So, why not treat yourself during afternoon tea week and raise a fine china cup to the memory of Anna, Duchess of Bedford – cocking a little finger whilst sipping is optional.