Afternoon Tea.

With the royal wedding the country has gone afternoon tea mad. So today's blog is on what must be my all-time favourite meal the traditional afternoon tea, and this weekend might see more than a few eaten. 

So what is afternoon tea and how is it served?

Firstly the what? Afternoon tea was introduced to England in 1840, when the Seventh  Duchess of Bedford would become hungry around 16:00. Within the household dinner was served at 20:00 meaning between lunch and dinner she would otherwise have to wait several hours. This light snack was taken in her boudoir and consisted of tea and a light snack. 

The Duchess was soon to invite friends to the boudoir to partake in this light meal and soon ladies around the country we're formally inviting their friends to this meal. This snack became so accepted in society that it moved from the boudoir to the drawing room and consisted of tea and dainty sandwiches. 

This was to become what we know as High Tea or Afternoon Tea. 

So what to serve and more importantly how?

This is my favourite part the food and staging.

For me afternoon tea should be an event so here is my must have list of vintage china;
3 tier cake stand - ideally one between two 
A set of cake servers per cake stand
Cake forks - 1 per person
Butter Knife - 1 per person
A trio - Cup, Saucer and Side Plate
Jam and Cream pot - 1 between 2
Milk Jug - 1 between 2
Sugar bowl and tongs - 1 between 2
2 person teapot 
Table cloth
Champagne glass/coupe (what is afternoon tea without fizz)

Now you have your basics how do you set the table?

First thing first lay a freshly washed and ironed table cloth over your table, I always prefer white. If you are like me and have them an overlay of a handstitched smaller table cloth laid on the table as a diamond. 

I always love to place a table centre of either fresh flowers in old teapots and cups or much stylised centres around a theme such as travel or flowers in cups.

With the table cloth on it is time for the crockery, a trio should be placed for each person, I love to leave them stacked central to the seat. The cup handles should always be to the 3 o'clock position as should the teaspoon.

Your napkin should be place to the left hand side of your trios with the fold furthest from the trio (this allows people to grab the corner and flick it open). Place the butter knife and cake fork on top. 
Then place the teapot, milk, sugar between the people who are to share them. Again ensure the handles of the milk jug and teapot is at 3 o’clock.  Finally place your champagne glass/coupe to the upper right hand side of your cup. 

Now the scene is set. What to serve?

Again this is personal taste but traditionally you would serve the following on a 3 tier cake stand;

Traditional afternoon tea usually comes with  a selection of around 4 sandwiches cut into either fingers or miniature triangles with no crusts  (your guests should be able to eat them in two mouthfuls).

Now the fillings again this is all personal preference, but no afternoon tea for me is complete without; cucumber sandwiches, plain ham, smoke salmon on soft cheese and roast beef. 

Your sandwiches should sit on the bottom tier of your cake stand

Next the all-important scones should be served on the second layer of your cake stand. Personally, I like to serve 2 scones per person a fruit and a plain. Ensure there is butter; a jam pot filled with strawberry jam and of course clotted cream.

The third layer of your cake stand should house some cakes and pastries, again like the sandwiches perhaps one or two bites. My personal favourites are individual sized Victoria sponges, gooey macaroons (I do like colour coordinate shells), mini eclairs and perhaps tea loaf.

The last and most important part of the proceeding the tea, again personal preference comes into play here. I personally, serve loose leaf tea with tasting notes.

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