The History of Afternoon Tea

With dainty finger sandwiches, delicate little cakes and delicious scones with lashings of jam and cream, there’s nothing quite so quintessentially British as afternoon tea. As a nation, afternoon tea has been one of our favourite pastimes since the early 19th century.

But the popularity of TV shows like The Great British Bake Off in recent years has given this great British culinary tradition a whole new lease of life. The British aristocracy is said to have introduced the tradition of afternoon tea. In 1840 Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford started to dine on bread, butter and tea in the afternoon, as a bridge between breakfast and supper. The Duchess began to invite her friends to join her, and before long afternoon tea was established as a private social function across fashionable society.

Today, afternoon tea is enjoyed throughout the world. From traditional afternoon tea to champagne afternoon tea and cream tea, this treasured tradition has never been more popular. Read on to discover some interesting facts about our favourite pastime…

6 interesting facts about afternoon tea

Scones didn’t feature in afternoon tea until the 20 th century. The correct order in which jam and cream should be spread onto a scone varies according to where you come from. According to tradition, if you’re from Devon, it’s cream first and then jam, whilst people in Cornwall prefer to add jam first followed by cream.

Afternoon tea was introduced as a social event for the upper classes. Unlike afternoon tea, high tea was a much more substantial meal comprising of tea, bread, cakes, meat and pies. Traditionally enjoyed by the working classes, it became popular in Britain during the 19 th century Industrial Revolution. High tea still exists in some parts of Northern England and Scotland. Tasty savory dishes, followed by tea, cakes and scones are traditionally served from late afternoon to early evening.

Britain is known as a nation of tea lovers. In fact, we’re said to consume over 62 billion cups of tea a year. Assam, Ceylon and Darjeeling are major types of black tea and ideal for pairing with afternoon tea. Earl Grey and English Breakfast are two of the most popular black tea blends and firm favourites.

The record for the biggest scone ever baked is held by New Zealander Shaun McCarthy in August 2010. It weighed in at 119.45 kg and measured 117 cm in diameter!

The Victoria Sponge cake, or Victoria Sandwich, was very popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. Known for having a very sweet tooth, Queen Victoria enjoyed many tea parties during her reign, and this delicious sponge cake was said to be one of her favourites.

At one time it was customary to pour milk into a tea cup first, mainly to cool the tea in order to prevent poor quality cups from cracking when adding hot water. Nowadays milk first or last is down to personal preference and taste.

Afternoon tea: a social event for all occasions

A social event for all occasions, afternoon tea is an enjoyable way to celebrate a birthday, a christening or an anniversary. Although why wait for a special occasion when you can get together with friends and family to indulge in a delightful afternoon treat anytime.

With its splendid and ornate period features, the 16th century Billesley Manor Hotel near Stratford-upon- Avon is the perfect setting to savour a delicious traditional afternoon tea.

At the Billesley Manor Hotel, enjoy great company and conversation over a decadent three-tiered serving of delicate finger sandwiches with traditional fillings, mouthwatering cakes and scrumptious homemade scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, together with the finest tea. Afterwards, take a walk around the hotel’s pretty 100-year- old topiary garden.

Bespoke Employees Sweep 2017 Brit List

Two Bespoke Hotels employees have been named on the 2017 Hotel Designs Brit List, which shortlists the 25 most inspirational and influential hoteliers for the year.

Both company Chairman, Robin Sheppard, as well as Mario Ovsenjak, General Manager of the fabulous Hotel Gotham were selected amongst the most influential and inspirational individuals in the hotel industry for the past year.

Brit List 2017: Winners honoured at party in London

Historic Investment for Dorking’s White Horse

Bespoke Hotels is pleased to announce it has committed to a substantial refurbishment and expansion program of Dorking’s historic White Horse Hotel, due to take place between July and November, 2017.

Totalling over £3,000,000, works will encompass the property’s accommodation, including a comprehensive remodelling and the addition of 16 new bedrooms. In addition to this, there will be a total re-design of the ground floor restaurant, bar, events and public spaces at the property, with the aim of introducing a stylish and affordable destination hotel, café and restaurant offering to Dorking for the first time.

Following the property’s closure on July 17th, the dining and events spaces are set to be entirely re-designed, with the current total of guest-rooms expanded from 41 to 57. Interior design will be overseen by Squid Inc, who recently worked alongside Bespoke on the opening of Manchester’s award-winning Hotel Gotham in 2015, with the aim of significantly transforming the culinary offering by expanding the property’s dining space and placing a renewed emphasis on local and freshly-prepared produce, available both to takeaway and dine-in.

“We are delighted to be able to commit so substantially to the reimagining of The White Horse”, commented Graham Marskell, Managing Director – Operations of Bespoke Hotels. “Bespoke Hotels and our creative partners will be overseeing a complete overhaul of both the accommodation and culinary sides of the business, with a view to re-establishing it as one of the region’s foremost foodie destinations.”

Bespoke Hotels Appointed to Manage Historic Billesley Manor

Bespoke Hotels has been appointed to manage Warwickshire’s Billesley Manor Hotel, completing a unique milestone for the group, which first took ownership of the historic 16th century estate in 1999 before its sale in 2005 following a period of outstanding performance.

Set amidst 11 acres of grounds, just a short drive from the world-famous site of Stratford-Upon-Avon, in the heart of Shakespearean England, Billesley Manor is a stunning 16th century manor house boasting 72 bedrooms, an AA-Rosette awarded restaurant, as well as a health club, swimming pool, tennis courts and wedding facilities.

A Grade II listed building steeped in history, the property is referenced in the Domesday  Book and features an 11th century church within it grounds, as well as a Topiary Garden and a library said to have been frequented by William Shakespeare himself.

“We are delighted to be returning to Warwickshire and resuming our relationship with Billesley Manor”, stated Haydn Fentum, CEO of Bespoke Hotels. “Having overseen our initial purchase of the property some two decades ago, it is a great source of pride to have been invited back to the helm and we are looking forward to working alongside the new owners.”

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