Afternoon tea is a quintessentially English custom but, whilst it may seem ingrained in our culture, it is actually a relatively new tradition.
Introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840, the tradition came about as a result of her peckishness at around four o’clock in the afternoon. As the evening meal in her household was served at the fashionably late hour of eight o’clock, there was plenty of time for treats between lunch and dinner. The Duchess requested a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be brought to her during the late afternoon, and the habit stuck.
Introducing the activity to friends, it soon became a fashionable social event. During the 1880s, upper-class and society women would dress up and take afternoon tea between four and five o’clock.
Nowadays, afternoon tea has seen something of a revival and caterers across the country serve the traditional treat throughout the afternoon.