“There are few hours in life more
agreeable than the hour dedicated
to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”
Everyone knows that Brits have a love affair with tea. It has become part of our identity; part of our make-up. Even if, like myself, you have a true dislike for the floating tea leaves, there is something quite tantalising about Afternoon Tea.
The delicately cut sandwiches and the moreish dessert-like treats infused with indescribable flavours entice you; the decadence of the environment warms you and the regal atmosphere will envelop you for just a few short hours. During this time you have the opportunity to relax in sumptuous surroundings whilst pressing the pause button on reality to experience a slower pace of life – one that will be reminiscent of bygone years.
Where did the Obsession with Afternoon Tea come from?
“Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea!” (Agatha Christie)
The quintessential English custom of tea drinking has been around since the 1660’s after becoming a ritual for King Charles II, however, the tradition of Afternoon Tea would take several more years to emerge.
In 1840, many settled for just two meals a day – breakfast and an evening meal – making afternoon tea a perfect solution to fight away the hunger pains.
Word quickly spread, pausing in the afternoon for tea seemed popular, fashionable even, especially for the upper class and society women. It soon became a daily event that would result in women changing into long, beautiful gowns simply so they could lounge around in drawing rooms across the country to partake in the event of eating dainty little sandwiches whilst sipping warm tea.
And so… Afternoon Tea was born.
Where to Indulge in Afternoon Tea
Heading into the capital gives you plenty of choice, from the finest hotels to the ability to take a bus tour of London whilst consuming delectable sugary delicacies; the options are vast.
During one of our London stays we opted for a grandiose Afternoon Tea experience at St. Ermins Hotel near St. James Park. With its sweeping stairs cases and large, inviting fireplaces this was an experience of regal proportions.
Wandering up the ivory steps and into the Tea Lounge with its decorative walls and ceilings I felt like we were taking a step back in time, to an era less complicated and more interested in socialising without the need for technology to enhance our experience.
With a warm welcome we were seated at a table already dressed with elegant tea cups, saucers and china plates. Sinking into the opulent chairs I could easily begin to see why people enjoy this luxurious experience from time to time. Within moments, staff members had presented us with a copious menu of teas to choose from and a fizzing glass of champagne. An unexpected addition to what was already an extravagant treat.
If you don’t like tea – don’t let this dissuade you; during our afternoon my teacup was never empty, with many alternative options available including a range of cappuccinos and lattes.
After spending several moments perusing the menu, Paul opted for a festive fruity tea to go with the White Winter Afternoon Tea we were about to treat ourselves to. Whilst waiting we spent time taking in the atmosphere, noting the ornate decorations and the oversized dark wooden cabinet full of ageing teapots.
Afternoon Tea traditionally comprising of a selection of finger sandwiches, scones spread with jam and covered in clotted cream, finishing with an array of small delicate Petit Fours to fill you up until supper. This Afternoon Tea did not disappoint – in fact – in surpassed all expectations.
Placed gently on our rounded table, we were surrounded with pleasant aromas from the mixture of freshly baked delights and the perfectly stewed tea. Never before have we experienced beetroot infused pale pink bread, added to colour the often bland looking cream cheese and cucumber offerings that stood in between the cranberry-baked bread filled with turkey, the beef and horseradish slices and the bright, uber-posh salmon and caviar mixture.
Next up came a basket of not two but six scones. Varying from the sweet to the savoury, with sea-salt, gingerbread and triple chocolate to choose from, our palettes were truly going to enjoy this experience.
Finally, came the selection of cakes that no sweet tooth could refuse. Snowballs covered in desiccated coconut covered chocolate, the richest Chocolate Tiffin with gold leaf finish followed by the tastiest Peanut Butter Macaron. Taking a bite of each delicious sugary concoction, they all simply melted in the mouth and complemented each other. The snowball, light and fluffy mixed with the super-sweet peanut butter delight of the macaron whilst the overload of sickly-dark chocolate was diluted by the savoury scones.
My advice – follow all of this with the refreshing, zesty Orange Posset; not only is it thirst-quenching but also a palette cleanser which helps to rejuvenate your mouth after the onslaught of combined flavours.
After the ample servings it was unsurprising that not only were we both full to busting but we were also defeated. If anyone is concerned that a plate full of finger sandwiches and a small selection of cakes will not fill you up until supper, you are very much mistaken. In truth, I was over-the-moon that I had only had a minimal breakfast and had bypassed lunch. I guarantee your tummy will not be grumbling with hunger afterwards.
As many have said to us in the past, Afternoon Tea is much more than a drink with a slice of cake, the whole experience is a worth-while break from the rat-race of life and one that I know we will partake in again in the future, whether as a couple or with friends.
“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea!
How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”
We would like to thank the staff of St Ermins Hotel for their fantastic service and attention to detail. With each menu change the staff all experience an Afternoon Tea themselves and frequently receive training on all new teas added so that they can brew each one to perfection.
Disclaimer: Although we received a complimentary Afternoon Tea from St. Ermins Hotel, all views and opinions are our own.