Afternoon tea: A very British tradition at The Dorchester
A quintessential British tradition, afternoon tea is an experience to be savoured and is often the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion. With Valentine’s Day almost here, The Promenade’s afternoon tea guru, Orlando Myrie, shares his passion for the subject and provides his own guidance on how to best observe the tradition to ensure you impress on the day.
When did afternoon tea become a ritual?
Afternoon tea was introduced to England in 1840 by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. The duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon, so she asked for a tray of tea, bread & butter and cake be brought to her room. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her. A ‘pause for tea’ soon became a fashionable social event. During the 1880s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea, which was usually served in the drawing room between 4-5pm.
Milk or tea first?
Originally all tea cups in Europe were made from soft paste porcelain. Milk was added first when making tea to prevent the cups cracking. Once hard paste porcelain was discovered in Europe, it was no longer necessary to add milk first. In fact, it became a sign of wealth to pour the milk in after the tea, as it demonstrated to guests that you could afford the best tea cups.
Where should napkins be placed?
A formal table has only one correct placement for a napkin, to the left side of the place setting. The napkin should be folded with the closed edge to the left and the open edge to the right, whether rectangular, triangular or square in shape
What’s the best way to eat a scone?
A true manners expert would recommend you break off a bite-size piece of scone and load with clotted cream and then jam – rather than spreading the whole scone in one go. It’s easier to eat that way or you can always use a fork.
Lemon slice or wedge?
A lemon slice can float in the tea cup to enhance the flavour of the tea. Traditionally, it would also contain a clove in the centre of the lemon slice. When a lemon wedge is served, it’s designed to be squeezed to add just the juice of the lemon to the tea.
The most important advice of all is to enjoy your afternoon tea – it is a truly indulgent experience and only the taste of the cakes and sandwiches should be on your mind!
Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea is available in The Promenade at The Dorchester from February 11 – 14.