WHY US BRITS ALL LOVE AFTERNOON TEA!

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Afternoon tea is a long-running British tradition, Scones smothered in jam and cream, dainty cucumber sandwiches and lots of tea = heaven for a Brit (More so if you’re name is Anna!) Cue belly growls... Today, the custom remains an extremely popular pursuit, enacted in tearooms, amazing little venues and households across the country. But what exactly is it about the custom that we adore so much? 

1. HISTORY

The origins of afternoon tea can be traced back to the year 1840 by Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Annoyed by hunger pains caused by only having two meals a day (This was the norm in the 1800’s), the Duchess scheduled time to take tea and enjoy a snack in the afternoon. Away to counter “that sinking feeling” she had at 4pm. She began with tea and cake alone in her room, but soon began to invite friends to join her “for tea and a walk in the fields”. The practice was then perpetuated throughout England. The upper classes served a “low” or “afternoon” tea around 4pm. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial “high” tea later. “Low” and “high” referred to the height of the table. High tea was served at dinner tables. The middle and lower working classes could not afford such an indulgent treat so instead introduced high tea – a much heartier affair usually involving tea, bread, meat, pies and crackers. 

2. TRADITION

Whilst there are now a number of modern variations of the quaint tradition, socialising over a pot of tea (or a Thirteen tipsy tea) and tucking into finger sandwiches is all part of re-creating a sense of old- fashioned finery. The ritual allows us to revisit traditional values, reminisce about times gone by and exercise some good old English etiquette. 

3. ICONICALLY BRITISH

Just like having a roast beef dinner on a Sunday, afternoon tea is quintessentially British. In fact, people from all over the world still think of the ceremony as a daily occurrence, when in reality, it’s often considered a treat saved for a special occasion. Still, we’re proud of our traditions, and call it narcissistic, but one of the reasons why we love the tea-drinking custom so much is because we invented it! Stick the kettle on ar kid! 

4. TEA CULTURE

There’s no hiding from the fact that as a nation, we’re obsessed with the idea of having a good cuppa – so much so that the saying ‘not my cup of tea’ is commonly used to describe something that is not to your taste. Thus, an activity that centres around tea-drinking, with some additional sweet treats on the side, is to experience British drinking culture at its very best. 

5. EXCITING LOCATIONS

Whether you prefer the informal atmosphere of a cosy tea room or want to indulge in the grandeur of the motherland’s most high-end hotels, the tradition is as much about food and drink as it is about the location. If you want to get the full afternoon tea experience and feel it’s too far to travel to one of the capital’s leading hotels, Thirteenoffers an impressive selection of sandwiches, cakes and sweet treats with herbal and brewed teas, all served up in a venue that dates back to 1681, our humble little abode we call home.  We also make it a little more jazzed up with cocktails using locally sourced seasonal ingredients or if you want to make it extra special we serve glasses of perfectly chilled bubbles to go with.  Think of that train fare you saved, that equates to at least 1 extra glass of fizz surely…

6. BREAKING UP ROUTINE

There’s no denying that we’re all prone to being creatures of habit, meaning that when we deviate from our everyday routine, it’s all the more enjoyable. By replacing lunch and diminishing the need for a proper dinner (tea where I come from) dining at a time that strays from our daily eating patterns can be a fun way to try something different, especially with busy weekend schedules that call for a quick bite to eat. No one likes to be thought of as “Sunday Dinner Same Again Sidney”.... 52 weeks of the year...Boring... 

7. ANY REASON FOR A GOOD OLD CHINWAG

Whether it’s a birthday celebration, a baby-shower, a christening, hair of the dog or simply an excuse to catch up with old friends, sharing a pot of tea is very much a social occasion. Having a civilised get-together in the middle of the day provides the perfect chance to engage in conversation, share food and relax in good company and in laid back surroundings. Escaping from the everyday hustle and bustle that life throws at you! 

8. GRUB WITH A DIFFERENCE

Offering a refined take on the everyday ‘builders tea’, there’s undeniably something fun about using a cup and saucer, not to mention making your way down a three tier platter and nibbling on a whole host of finger foods. The delicate nature of bite-sized sandwiches and tiny samples of cakes offers a different way to enjoy food. 

9. GO ON TREAT YOURSELF! 

After a hard day’s graft, we all deserve a treat every now and then... but sometimes you want something a little different to dinner out or a cooked breakfast. Sometimes it would be nice to be treated in the afternoon with a delicious cream tea. 

10. HANDBAGS AND GLADRAGS

Let face it, we all love an excuse to get dressed up and what better time to slip into your favourite dress or dapper shirt than an afternoon tea? It’s a great chance to get your hair, nails and makeup done and wear your Sunday best whilst sampling an array of delicious cocktails, cakes and sandwiches. But remember to wear something with a little extra give, as overindulging is compulsory! 

11. A PERFECT EXCUSE TO DRINK PROSECCO MIDDAY

You should never need to justify opening your favourite bottle of bubbly, but occasionally an excuse helps. An afternoon tea midday is a perfect reason to crack open a bottle of Prosecco with friends and get your taste buds going with a scone and jam and a perfectly matched glass of fizz to accompany. Never has a glass of Prosecco tasted so damn fine... 

12. HOW DO YOU EAT YOURS

Some aspects of afternoon tea etiquette largely depend on where you are in the country. The answer to the age-old question of whether to put jam or cream on your scone first varies from place to place, with tradition dictating that if you’re from Cornwall it’s jam first then cream, while Devonians do the opposite. 

13. TEA TIME WOWSERS

  • Every day in the UK, 165 million cups of tea are drunk. 
  • 98 per cent of people like their tea with milk; 30 per cent add sugar to it.
  • The world record for the most cups of tea made in one hour by a team of 12 is 1,848. 
  • The most expensive tea bag in the world was created by Boodles jewellers to celebrate PG  Tips’ 75th anniversary. The diamond-encrusted bag was valued at £7,500. 
  • It is estimated that, as a nation, British people consume around 62 billion cups of tea a year.

Afternoon tea is a long-standing British tradition and a must-try on your visit to Bicester. From themed meals to traditional styles, this ceremonious event is steeped in history and we at Thirteen offer our individual take on this quintessentially British occasion. For more information or to reserve a table get in touch with us by e mail at hello@thirteenbicester.com or call us on 01869 389491