Do you know how tea was discovered?
I was fortunate enough to be invited to Afternoon tea and tea tasting at Cafe Christianias 10th anniversary and where Stephen Twining 10th generation Twining held a little lecture about tea, his family’s tea history, fun facts and trivia.
It is as simple as this, about five thousand years ago a chinese emperor used to boil his drinking water for sanitary reasons and one day leaves fell into his pot of boiling water from surrounding trees and it was not just any kind of tree but the tree we know as Camellia sinensis. The leaves gave his water a fragrant aroma and taste and thus began the history of tea as we know today.
Afternoon tea is Cafe Christiania most popular item on their menu and the reataurant has done a little research about afternoon tea and gone to some of the best places in England so that they could serve their customers an afternoon tea as authentic as possible. How did afternoon tea come about?
Afternoon tea, the most quintessential of English customs is a relatively new tradition. Tea drinking dates back two three millennia BC in China and was popularised in England during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza.
The concept of afternoon tea did not appear until the mid 17th century. The custom started with Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. At that time they only had two main meals in England and The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, leaving a long period of time between breakfast and dinner. The Duchess would ask for a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake to be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
This meal with tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s 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 four and five o’clock.
From what I understand there are eally no set rules about the content of a traditional Afternoon Tea menu, but it usually consists of sandwiches and a variety of sweet items. A typical menu might look like this:
Traditional Afternoon Tea Menu
A selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches
Warm scones with clotted cream and preserves
A variety of homemade cakes and pastries
Your choice from a range of teas
The types of sandwiches often served with Afternoon Tea
The classic selection of sandwiches served with Afternoon Tea are:
egg mayonnaise with cress
smoked salmon with cream cheese
Ham and mustard
A ‘Cream Tea’ is generally scones, clotted cream and preserve served with a pot of tea.
Champagne Afternoon Tea
Many hotels and restaurants offer set menus that include a glass of Champagne with the Traditional Afternoon Tea, or the option to add a glass of Champagne for an additional charge.
Tea blends used
The range of teas on offer can vary from half a dozen to over a hundred, including some very rare and obscure ones. Some of the common teas on offer will include the following:
Assam: A strong full-bodied tea from India, which has a distinctive, ‘malty’ flavour.
Darjeeling: An aromatic and astringent tea from India, with a hint of almonds and wildflowers.
Earl Grey: A blend of black teas scented with oil of bergamot named after Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834.
Lapsang Shouchong: A Chinese tea fired over smoking pine needles, which produces a striking smoky odour and flavour.
My first afternoon tea was at The Conrad in Hong Kong in 1997 right before China took over. I remember it as a luxurious, decadent and never ending meal and served a little different from just the items mentioned above. The girls and I had a five course meal including the traditional afternoon tea servings. Whenever I go out for afternoon tea these days the experience always get compared with The Conrad and to be fair I just compare the typical afternoon tea items.