The 5 Must Haves of a Traditional English Afternoon Tea Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a truly unique English tradition known worldwide. In this article I’m going to talk about what afternoon tea is, where to have afternoon tea and what to expect from afternoon tea.

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea began in the 1800’s. The Duchess of Bedford Anna, reportedly complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. She wanted something small in order to keep her hunger at bay until dinner. This was how ‘Afternoon Tea’ was born, of course, it was significantly smaller than it is now!

The higher class women would change into long gowns with gloves and hats for afternoon tea which would then be served in the drawing room, in the summer it would be served in the gardens.

Afternoon Tea was very much for the wealthy, tea was a delicacy and the people who could afford to drink it wanted everyone to know! Many portraits show families with their best china drinking tea in the afternoon.

Afternoon Tea 1800's

My Experience of Afternoon Tea and the 5 Must Haves!

I have had the experience of various Afternoon Tea’s over the past few years and each differs slightly in what they offer as well as the presentation. There are five essential elements which never seem to change however;

1. Sandwiches

Small, crustless fingers usually containing various fillings, cream cheese and cucumber, coronation chicken, salmon, beef and horseradish to name a few.

2. Scones

Plain and fruit scones served with cream and jam.

3. Selection of cakes

Small bite sized cakes, very rich. The selection will usually include items such as macarons and small fruit tarts

4. Tea’s

Various Tea Options, English breakfast teas to fruit teas. Many places also offer coffee and (usually for an additional charge!) a glass of champagne!

5. The Cake Stand

If some way or other afternoon tea is almost always served on some sort of decorative stand, tiered, sandwiches on one level, scones on another and finally the cakes at the top!

A few of my recent experiences of Afternoon Tea

The Royal Crescent Hotel – Bath

This is by far the most formal yet still relaxed afternoon tea, it is also one of the most expensive … but worth it!

I booked this for part of my sisters hen weekend and we loved it! We sat out on the lawns (just as they would have done in the 1800’s)

The Royal Crescent Hotel - Bath

Hoar Cross Hall – Staffordshire

This is again quite a formal setting, a stately home in the countryside. We had our tea in a drawing room setting overlooking the gardens. Certainly not over priced either!

Hoar Cross Hall - Staffordshire

The Hilton at St Georges Park – Staffordshire

This is a more relaxed setting for afternoon tea, overlooking fields, you can enjoy tea inside the restaurant or on the patio in warmer weather. It is the training home to to England football team!

When Laurie, our Co Founder came to visit back in July this is where we went. Laurie had never experienced an English afternoon tea before!

The Hilton at St Georges Park - Staffordshire


There are many places offering afternoon tea, these are a small section of my favourites. They all follow a common theme.

An idea I will be putting into practice this week is to recreate afternoon tea at home, for a birthday or other occasion with decorations …. I even have my tiered cake stand ready!

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