Where did afternoon tea originate from?

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What could be more quintessentially British than an afternoon tea in the Cotswolds? Prawn and mayonnaise sandwiches, ham and mustard rolls, Danish pastries, scones with clotted cream and jam; there’s no end to the number of mouth-watering delicacies that can be enjoyed as part of an afternoon tea.

But although we think this British tradition has been around for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1830’s that afternoon tea came about and it’s all thanks to Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Anna claimed to have ‘that sinking feeling’ during the late afternoon as the hours stretched before her until she could eat dinner at 8pm. To satisfy her hunger Anna started to ask for a pot of tea and small snack to be taken to her private rooms and it really is from this small lifestyle change that the British custom of afternoon tea was born.

As Anna’s request for afternoon tea became a staple of her daily routine that summer, she started to invite her friends to join her. The custom proved so popular that on her return to London from Woburn Abbey, she continued her afternoon tea rituals, and it wasn’t long before other social hostesses copied her tradition.

The new custom was also given the Royal seal of approval by Queen Victoria (a close friend of Anna’s) who had a penchant for a slice of light cake prepared with fresh cream and raspberries. Sound familiar? Well, there’s nothing nicer than a fresh slice of Victoria sponge!

Nowadays afternoon tea is usually served in hotels and tea rooms instead of at home and is normally undertaken as part of a celebration like a birthday, anniversary, baby shower or even as part of special day out. But what makes the British afternoon tea quite charming, is that the constituent parts have not really changed since its creation by Anna back in the 1830’s.

As well as a pot of tea you can expect dainty finger size sandwiches filled with the most British of fillings like cucumber or egg mayonnaise, presented on one tier of a cake stand. On another tier you’ll find an assortment of sweet treats like cakes, biscuits and scones. In more recent times a tier of savoury delights has also been added which could include delicacies like mini Yorkshire puddings, quiches, and salmon muffins.

Here at Ellenborough Park, we offer the finest afternoon tea in Cheltenham. We have a wide range of handpicked teas for you to choose from which include classics like Earl Grey and home made infusions like hot ginger. If you fancy a coffee we have a wide selection available such as Espresso and Macchiato. And for those of you who are looking to celebrate a really special occasion why not upgrade your afternoon tea to include a lovely cold glass of bubbles.

Make your special day out in the Cotswolds a truly memorable occasion and join us here at Ellenborough Park for a quintessentially British afternoon tea celebration.

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