Tea Time: What It Is And What Is The Origin Of This English Tradition

What is tea time? What do you eat at tea time? Has it always been celebrated the same way in England? Next, all about the delicious tradition of tea time.

It’s thinking about England and simultaneously hearing, would you like a cup of tea? Tea has been an inalienable part of British culture for a couple of centuries. The time of day and accompaniment have continued to evolve from Victorian times to the present day. Champagne accompanies tea time in luxury hotels in London, while sweet and savory bites alternate, whether in the most elegant or the most homely versions. Today, everything about tea time and the essentials to organize your own.

What is tea time

Tea time is a moment, a habit, a ceremony. Tea time is a British tradition that takes place from 3 to 5 in the afternoon and that new generations are transforming. Tea is served in flowered porcelain cups surrounded by abundant pastries, cookies, and tender cucumber sandwiches. The concept of tea time is simple, a sip to rest and a snack to recharge.

The tea time ritual features a teapot overflowing with black tea, accompanied by some slices of lemon and a jug of milk. The pickle, cream cheese, and salmon sandwiches are the most unknown salty part of the ceremony. Among the sweets, scones stand out, a type of thick butter cookie that is very easy to make at home. Tea time, also known as tea break or afternoon tea, is defined by the Collins dictionary as “a short break throughout the working day, either mid-morning or afternoon, during which tea or coffee is drunk.”. They do not mention the abundant gastronomic specialties that are worth stocking up on to enjoy a legitimate tea time.

Tea time in England

Tea time in England has been set at 5 in the afternoon, although there are other time slots, such as from 6 to 11 at night, a slot historically designated for tea time for the lower classes. Tea time in London, for its part, has taken on its own aspect and today between 4 and 5 in the afternoon in all types of luxury hotels we can enjoy experience packages around tea, salty sandwiches, sweets, and champagne. An offer available from €45 that transcends the concept of tea time rest and is based on the Victorian aspect of the upper classes who sought above all to socialize with their peers.

Tea time in the world

Tea is the third most consumed drink in the world. In Ireland, the largest consumer, it is as common to find an Irishman enjoying tea time mid-morning as it is at 3 or 5 in the afternoon. The table is abundant in sweets and savories in a similar way to the English and the cup of black tea with milk is always a source of regeneration between the classic daily rains.

In China, tea time experiences two social currents. Oolong tea, a variety of Chinese tea between green and black tea, was drunk with baos filled with red beans or sweets such as mooncakes until the English tea trend burst into Shanghai, turning tea time into a an event intended for the upper social class. In Japan, tea time is another opportunity to honor its respectful essence and the experience revolves around the hospitality offered to the guest. Tea time in India has its own name and it is Chai. Much more consumed in the north than in the south, this sweet mixture of black tea, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, milk, and sugar is available throughout the day at the street stops where workers gather to recharge their batteries.

In Turkey, tea is pronounced like in India, although its hue is reddish, milk is not added and sugar is optional. Tea came to Russia from the Mongol Kingdom and Russian caravans were famous for transporting tea from China to the European continent. Currently, tea time in Russia can occur at any time of the day, although with the presence of the samovar, a special metal teapot to prepare and keep the tea hot.

What is tea time

When it is tea time will depend on the context, place and social class. British tea time is commonly between 3 and 5 p.m., with the most common time being five o’clock tea or 5 p.m. tea. But that is not all. While afternoon tea is the tea from 5 in the afternoon, high tea is the tea that is usually drunk between 6 and 11 at night. Why this difference?

The roots are historical. Afternoon tea has its origins in the upper social class. This custom was an excuse to socialize, with a snack in between, and be seen in the right company. On the other hand, high tea, so called because it is served on normal tables and not low tea tables, was the worker’s tea and was accompanied by what was the main meal of the day.

Of course, the tradition of breakfast tea and early morning tea is one of the natural evolutions that tea consumption experienced in England, and that gives its name to tea varieties such as English Breakfast, a robust black tea ideal to accompany with milk and sugar.

Origin of tea time

Two women’s names flood the internet when we search for the origins of tea time. These are: Catherine Henriette of Braganza and the Duchess of Bedford. The former is associated with the expansion of tea consumption in England while the Duchess of Bedford is associated with the creation of the afternoon tea ceremony, including food. Historians agree on the influence of Catherine of Braganza on the tradition of drinking tea in England. Catherine came from Portugal and her marriage to Charles II of England was a standard alliance between both countries. Portugal was a great connoisseur of tea thanks to the important maritime trade routes it maintained with Asia. Thus, Catherine was a great connoisseur of tea and there is no doubt that she carried the tradition of drinking tea with her to England.

On the other hand, the origin of tea time, or afternoon tea, is somewhat more diffuse. Although it is known that the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, was profuse in adding sweets, there are historical records that spoke of tea time as a time of day to socialize and have a snack before the Duchess was born. With this, we can assume that the Duchess reinforced and expanded the already existing tradition that had been established throughout the 18th century.

What tea do you drink at tea time?

Traditionally, at tea time we choose to use black tea. An aromatic Darjeeling or Earl Gray with a touch of bergamot works wonders with the hint of milk. Also the English Breakfast, robust, without citrus or sweet notes, is ideal for tea that accompanies all types of snacks, sweet and savory.

What is served at tea time

If the tea is essential, the surrounding morsels are just as important. All kinds of sandwiches are arranged around the kettle: ham sandwiches, pickle sandwiches, cream cheese, and salmon sandwiches interspersed with sausage-filled rolls. As for sweets, the star is the classic scones, butter cookies that are sometimes also coated with salt and made with cheese. Of course, a tender carrot cake, dozens of cupcakes of different colors arranged in a sweet cascade or the mini Victoria sponge cake, spongy pastries, with jam and cream cheese can also, and should, be present in a complete tea time.

How to organize tea time

Organizing tea time is simple, fun, and can be an exercise in creativity. The filmography inspired by the Victorian era makes it easy for us, we already know that we must make sure we have beautiful flowered porcelain tableware, teapot, and cups included. Do your best to have a nice vertical display where you can display sandwiches and pastries, and if we dare to replicate tea time in the style of a luxury London hotel, a bottle of champagne.

How to serve tea

The tea at tea time must of course be accompanied by slices of lemon, sugar, and milk so that each diner can adapt it to their taste. Opting for black tea varieties such as Ceylon or Darjeeling will ensure that the experience is a pleasure for the palate.

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