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Afternoon Tea

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

Henry James

A short history of Afternoon Tea

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford in the 1830s, is credited with first making ”Afternoon Tea” into a formal social occasion.

It all had to do with the shifting hour of the evening meal, which became fashionably later and later as more and more houses became able to be cost-effectively lit until well into the late evening. Not that the Bedfords were especially short on candles, but someone has to lead these things.

Finding herself understandably peckish in the gap between luncheon and dinner, the Duchess began inviting her friends to enjoy tea and ”a light refreshment” in her rooms at Woburn Abbey. She continued the practice upon returning to London and the ”Afternoon Tea” became an increasingly fashionable ritual among the social hostesses of the upper classes.

”Tea rooms” were all the rage in the late 19th century, quickly becoming THE place for meeting friends and sharing gossip. They were also considered one of the few respectable places for women to meet without a chaperone, so the out-of-home Afternoon Tea took off like a social network. At some stage, music was added to the occasion, and fashionable young people attended afternoon ”tea dances” in the most stylish of hotels, a practice which continued until the Second World War.

Nearly 200 years after the Duchess´s innovation, sitting down to afternoon tea remains a byword for an elegant way of carrying on.