Afternoon tea is synonymous with high society, always associated with a touch of decadence and now back on trend with it becoming a regular eating occasion throughout hotels, bars and restaurants in the UK.
Guest Article - Lockhart Catering Equipment
The most British of past-times, a reason to meet friends, a civilized affair – and always partnered with some delicious nibbles, afternoon tea is a sophisticated excuse to kick off your heels and wind down with friends.
In the early nineteenth century tea drinking increased dramatically – and it is said that the seventh Duchess of Bedford complained of ‘having a mid-afternoon dip’ – although in nineteenth century high society, we’re thinking it may have been described quite differently.
At the time, the norm was two main meals a day – and so the snacking solution for the hungry Duchess to fill the void between feasts was a pot of tea and a light snack.
From the privacy of a secret snack in the boudoir, the concept of afternoon tea soon became popular and friends were invited to join the occasion. Before long the social hostesses in London picked up the idea – and it became a respectable way for fashionable society to partake of a pot of tea and a delicate sandwich or two whilst discussing affairs of state.
Today the association of afternoon tea and a spot of decadent living remains –and with the surge in popularity of a ‘tasse de thé the afternoon occasion becomes a right of passage for fashionable female friends to gather and discuss world news, politics and maybe the latest shoe collection from Jimmy Choo.
Tea today is not quite as straight forward as choosing a builder’s brew or an Earl Gray. Although according to www.tea.co.uk, 96% of all cups of tea drunk daily in the UK are brewed from tea bags, there has been a huge surge in popularity and Brits are increasingly turning to alternative varieties, with sales of green tea bags shooting up an impressive 83% in past two years alone (Mintel). As green tea has been hugely associated with health benefits it means that we can enjoy a cuppa – and it be very good for us too.
On the back of the Green Tea generation, sales of fruit, herbal and speciality bags have also surged with eating establishments offering a range of options to be served with afternoon tea providing the visitor with a plethora of choice for the pot.
Tea is now officially cool – and combine it with an afternoon tea tray, it becomes an occasion to be enjoyed – and repeated again and again.
Of course, there are society rules to be obeyed when serving the perfect afternoon tea. Presentation is key – and the menu should be full of mouth-watering moments. A traditional Afternoon Tea Menu should always contain a selection of gorgeous finger sandwiches – cucumber sandwiches an essential, warm scones and a selection of home made cakes and pastries with a choice of tea blends.
These days there are many a contemporary twist on the afternoon tea with Champagne Teas becoming a fizz addition to the traditional menu and food selections now including the ubiquitous macaroons.
But one thing is for sure, afternoon tea still evokes a decadent nod to high society times gone by and a sophisticated afternoon ‘gossiping’ with friends. For the catering trade, it provides another eating occasion to be added to the menu choice.
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