UK afternoon tea culture

(VOVWORLD) - Taking afternoon tea is a quintessential British pastime and has been part of the UK’s culture for centuries. Scones with lashings of jam and butter, cucumber sandwiches, and lots of tea is truly heaven for a Brit. In this week’s “Culture Rendezvous”, we’ll talk to Abby Chitty, a UK student, about why the British love afternoon tea, the best places to enjoy it, and useful tips on tea etiquette. 

Hi, Abby! Welcome to VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. Tell us about the tradition of having afternoon tea in your country.

Today I think I will talk a bit about afternoon tea because it is a very big thing in England and we are the tea drinking nation. Afternoon tea is what we have in the evening just before dinner where we have a choice of tea and light snacks. Normally the light snacks are sandwiches, scones, and tiny little cakes. Where it originated from was the daughter of the third Earl of Harrington. She was called Anna-Maria Russell. Because in these olden days, they used to have only breakfast and dinner, she got really hungry in the afternoon so she requested her cook that she would like to have a light snack with tea. And then everyone started to do it and it became a tradition. Actually its beginning was very little: it was mainly the royal’s course, the aristocracy who would have their afternoon tea. But it soon became more normalized. But actually we normally only have it on special occasions. So if we’re going for an afternoon tea, it’s quite exciting.

Is afternoon tea served differently in different regions in the UK?

The most famous where you can go to is London and its other rest. A lot of restaurants do afternoon tea. They come with lots of champagne as well. It’s a very much a summery thing. We do it in the summer normally. We also have something called a “High Tea” which people often get confused. A High Tea is more common with heavier afternoon snacks. It would be something like a casserole or a stew whereas all afternoon teas have scones. They can be sweet or they can be savory. We normally serve them with cream.

Going for an afternoon tea in a restaurant, some etiquette are required. Is that right?

You have to dress smartly, you have to wear your best dresses, suits, and ties. You can’t wear Chinese. You have to wear a shirt with a tie. This is a must for a man and women just wear dresses. You just have to look really smart or they won’t let you in.

UK afternoon tea culture - ảnh 1 People have to dress smartly when participating in an afternoon tea ceremony in the UK (Photo:

What should we do next?

You have to stand. They will serve you with a cake stand. Each layer is different. The bottom is the scones which are heavy. You don’t want to eat too many of those, that’s some advice, because you won’t want anything else. On the next layer you’ll have mini sandwiches which should be filled with light salmon and cream cheese or cucumber. And then on the top layer, you have the cakes. For example, you may have a small macaroon or a tiny piece of chocolate cake. They are all small because it’s supposed to be a snack. To be honest, whenever I have afternoon tea, I eat so much so I call it “dinner”. There are a lot of different types of tea that you can choose to go with it. They have Earl Grey Tea, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Assam, Green Tea, Peppermint Tea, Chamomile Tea, etc. But if you go to some really cool places they might have different ones: tea that comes from soil and some other which are exotic teas if you want.  

UK afternoon tea culture - ảnh 2 A cake stand often has 3 layers: scones, sandwiches, and cakes

What is your favorite tea?

Normally I have English Breakfast because it is very English. It’s the biggest choice. You can’t have coffee with afternoon tea because otherwise you’ll be judged. You have to have tea.

How often do you have an afternoon tea in a restaurant?

Not very often, maybe once a month. We have afternoon tea when there is a deal because they can be quite expensive. When there’s a deal, you can get money off. I’ll go with my family. I’ll take my grandparents out. It’s not something that we do at home. Everyone are happy. Spirits are lifted.

Thank you, Abby, for the talk! That has been Abby Chitty from the UK talking about British afternoon tea culture. For VOV24/7’s “Culture Rendezvous”, I’m TL. Catch you next time!