History of the Afternoon Tea
“Afternoon Tea” or “Low Tea” is often confused with “High Tea.” At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the English only ate two meals a day – a hearty breakfast and an enormous dinner. Working families came home at 6 pm for a dinner of meat, vegetables, bread and butter, cheese, pickles, and of course, tea. This was called “High Tea” because the meal was eaten at a high dining table.
In the early 1800s, Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, introduced the practice of “Afternoon” or “Low” tea. Experiencing a “low feeling” in the late afternoon, she would have small snacks prepared accompanied by tea. In time, the Duchess invited friends to join her.
It soon became fashionable among the upper-class to invite friends for “Afternoon Tea.” This light repast was served in a sitting room or a withdrawing room at four in the afternoon. Low tables were placed near the guests where they could rest their tea cups. Hostesses served dainty foods: slender tea sandwiches, then fruit or sorbet which cleansed the palate, sweet scones or pastries followed by an elegant cake. Since these foods were eaten with only three fingers, a delicate finger bowl with rose petals afloat in water, would be present to clean the fingers. Beautiful silver tea pots were used, and tongs were set out for sugar cubes.