One of the most quintessentially British things to do in London is indulge in an afternoon tea. Even though I’ve been living in London nearly (although not continuously) a year and a half, I’ve yet to indulge in this tradition. This was finally rectified when my class had the opportunity to visit The Ritz for afternoon tea in London.
The history of afternoon tea starts in the 19th century with Anna, the Dutchess of Bedford. A friend of Queen Victoria and one of the London elite, she often felt sluggish in the late afternoon and wanted something to satisfy the hunger, but not ruin dinner.
Small sandwiches and cakes with tea were offered to her and her friends. Overtime, these afternoon teas became a tradition and was used as a time for the ladies to exchange news and stories.
An activity which started with the upper-class then filtered down to more and more people. It transitioned from a light snack to a more indulgent affair with copious amounts of sandwiches and pastries.
I went with the Ritz Royal English tea and each tea is brought out in silver teapots. Accompanying the tea, we started with a delicious assortment of sandwiches (I think I ate around 12…) and pastries. Pastry school students are the most analytical bunch eating pastries. 😉
The afternoon tea’s at five-star hotels can be on the somewhat pricer side (The Ritz is £50/person; £66 with a glass of champagne) however, they make up for that in the excellent service and delicious food, which you are able to request additional rounds. I didn’t eat lunch prior to tea, so I asked one of the waiters to keep it coming! Mid-way through the tea, they bring plates of sweet and savory scones with clotted cream and jam as well as a cart with additional desserts to sample. The scone service started the debate of jam or clotted cream first?!
All and all it was an excellent outing as a class. A great way to check out the service of a five-star hotel, taste new pastries and gain inspiration for the kitchen and indulge in a long-standing English tradition.