Today is the very last day of Heart of Pixie’s 21 Days of Tea series, so what better way to cap it off than with an afternoon tea party? It’s really lucky that the series timeline worked out the way it did, because Mother’s Day is actually the perfect time to play with this classically British tradition. It is elegant, charming, and also can be a lot of work depending on how elaborate you get, so it’s the perfect way to celebrate someone as important as your mom or anyone you’d like to pamper.
A Brief History
Afternoon tea (or low tea) doesn’t have the same fancy connotations as “high” tea, but afternoon tea is what most folks imagine when they think of an ornate, traditional tea party. Thought to have been introduced in 1840 by the seventh Duchess of Bedford, who was one of Queen Victoria’s friends, afternoon tea was served at mid-afternoon, around 4-5 p.m., and meant to hold one over until dinnertime. In the 1800s it was really hip in upper-class society to have late dinners, and since Anna’s supper wasn’t served until 8 p.m., she’d have tea, breads, and cakes between her mid-morning and evening meals as a snack. She’d invite folks over and make a whole social event of it. Thus, a tradition was born.
In contrast with the dainty cakes and sandwiches of afternoon tea, high tea tended to consist of heavier dishes like meat pies and casseroles.There’s also a class distinction between afternoon (low) and high tea. The afternoon tea tradition was typically that of upper-class women, while high teas served as supper for working class folks, enjoyed after a long day’s work (hence the heavier meals).
I learned at some point in my life that the terms “high tea” and “low tea” actually refer to the heights of the tables. Afternoon tea tended to be held in the drawing room (so, imagine coffee-table height), while high tea would be held at the taller main dining table.
Teas: black teas such as Ceylon, Assam, and Darjeeling are most traditional, but serving an assortment of flavours is best, along with honey, sugar cubes, and lemon slices
Tiny Delectable Sweets: Macarons, éclairs, petit fours, cookies
Classic Tea Fare: Scones, crumpets, buns, sweet fruit-filled sandwiches, herbed butter, jams, custards, clotted cream
Savory Bites: Quiche, crustless sandwiches–cucumber, pimento cheese, egg salad
Bonus: add flutes of champagne for an instant upgrade
While these treats seem to be most common afternoon tea fare from my experience in the UK, it’s okay to get creative. I think the trick is to make everything mini or bite-sized: tiny quiche, tiny sandwiches, itty bitty cakes. Somehow that makes everything seem fancier. 😉
And so marks the end of Heart of Pixie’s 21 Days of Tea in 2018! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and I hope you stay tuned for the next adventure. Sign up for Heart of Pixie emails to stay in the loop!