Tea and cake? Don’t mind if I do.
Afternoon tea has seen somewhat of a revival of late. After the traditional English tea rooms suffered at the hands of the great coffee shop trend, people have started to revisit the humble cuppa and are switching from skinny mocha frappes to an English breakfast brew. This may be due to the economic down turn, where ‘shabby chic’ and home comforts have now taken centre stage. The Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics will keep the trend going for a long while yet, emphasising a proud heritage.
It’s always baffled me though, as to how us Brits have managed to fall for a drink of which it’s main ingredient has to be imported from the other side of the world and how it’s subsequently become so synonymous with being British.
We’ve made it work for us though and we’re now world renowned for our afternoon teas, which are actually slightly more complex than one may initially think. You’d better get the kettle on…
High tea, Afternoon tea, Cream teas; all are different and have their own quirky elements that traditionalists insist on.
Cream Tea is the simplest of the bunch, involving scones, clotted cream, jam and, of course, a pot of tea. These days they’re mostly found in hotels and are always a treat and almost a bit touristy but when it’s done right, it’s something that will make your afternoon a little bit more special.
Afternoon tea is the most well known and is a larger spread than the cream tea, involving cakes, sarnies and also scones. Back in the day, the lady of the manor didn’t have a lot to keep her occupied and whilst she waited for the cooks to kill and prepare supper (which wouldn’t be served until 8-9pm) she’d get rather bored and rather peckish, so afternoon tea was born (thank goodness; i don’t know where I’d be without a slice of Victoria sponge) and is usually served on tiered plates. Start with your sarnies (fingers or triangles, crusts off) move on the scones and finish with cakes and pastries.
High Tea. Now, most posh hotels and restaurants would have you believe that high tea is an embellished, luxury version of afternoon tea. This isn’t the case. High tea is usually savoury, served after dinner (when dinner replaces lunch). Bread, cold cuts of meat, cheeses and any leftovers from dunner will be used for high tea, sometimes also served up with a cake acting as dessert.
Whilst ‘the teas’ are having a revival, most of us still reserve these traditions as a treat; on holidays and for occasions (with the possible exception of high tea) with most of us opting for short ‘tea breaks’ instead, making a cuppa (usually in the cup, no pot) and then dunking a bicky or two (shortbread for me please!)
I don’t know what the future is for our tea and cake heritage but with Britain taking centre stage this summer it’s nice to look back at our traditions. I think our little scones and their friends may find themselves in demand so, let’s get baking!