Art Friday: Time for tea
According to the "About Food" website: It is believed that credit for the custom of the Afternoon Tea goes to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the early 19th century. The usual habit of serving dinner as late as 9pm left the Duchess hungry in the late afternoon. To stave off the hunger she would order tea, bread and butter and cakes to be served in her room. This was thought to be an excellent idea and the habit caught on and the afternoon tea was born.
However it is important to remember that at the time of the Duchess of Bedford, they knew nothing about baking powder, so the delicious light cakes we enjoy today at afternoon tea (such as the Victorian Sponge) were not eaten. Most cakes were heavy (rather than delicate) and more like a bread. It wasn’t until 1843 did the first modern version of baking powder was created and manufactured by Alfred Bird (1811-1878), British chemist and founder of Bird and Sons Ltd (custard makers). It took sometime to prefect baking powder and create the cakes we know today.
One cake enjoyed at afternoon tea is the Victoria sponge cake. According to historians, after the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria retreated to her residence (Osborn House) at the Isle of Wight to mourn. Her chefs wanted to make something to cheer her up and this led to the Victorian sponge! She loved it.
According to Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, a"Victoria Sandwiches" should be:
• 4 eggs
• Their weight in pounded sugar, butter and flour
• 1/4 saltspoonful of salt
• A layer of any kind of jam or marmalade.
Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour and pounded sugar; stir these ingredients well together, and add the eggs, which should be previously thoroughly whisked. When the mixture has been well beaten for about 10 minutes, butter a Yorkshire-pudding tin, pour in the batter, and bake it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Let it cool, spread one half of the cake with a layer of nice preserve, place over it the other half of the cake, press the pieces slightly together, and then cut it into long finger-pieces; pile them in cross bars on a glass dish, and serve. Time. — 20 minutes. Average cost, 1s 3d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time.
Afternoon tea is wonderful to enjoy with friends in the garden. Relaxing around a pretty table, using the best china with bit size cakes and a pot of tea is rather perfect. This is the time to put your worries away and enjoy time with friends. For the ladies it's the lovely excuse to get dressed up!
Traditional teatime is four o'clock; however any time between two and five o'clock is appropriate for certain areas.
What is the differences between cream tea, afternoon tea, high tea and royal tea:
* A 'Cream Tea' is usually just scones with cream and preserves served with tea.
* 'Afternoon Tea' is traditionally sandwiches, scones and a selection of cakes, served with tea.
* 'High tea' compromising of more savoury foods and an altogether heartier meal, historically taken by the lower classes.
* 'Royal Tea' is a less widely used term signifying the addition of a glass of champagne to a traditional Afternoon Tea, for those extra special occasions! (source: Afternoon tea.co.uk)
Tea in the Afternoon by Charles Edward Chambers
However, not every afternoon tea needs to be posh. Afternoon tea for one is just as enjoyable - a pretty mug, a pot of tea, some dainty sandwiches on a tray next to the flower garden is just pleasant. This is a perfect time for reading a book, listening to nature, time for some quiet contemplation or getting your daily dose of vitamin D.
Afternoon Tea by An He
Even in the middle of winter one can enjoy afternoon tea by a sunny window such as in this Susan Rios painting. It is nice to have a break in the afternoon after a busy day and taking the time to catch one's breath.
Afternoon tea is often associated with elegant china such as Wedgwood or Royal Dolton. These manufacturers still hand paint (with gold) the most expensive versions of their china, perhaps out of reach for most of us!! One can still serve a beautiful afternoon tea without all the expensive china, thrift stores are great places to find old fashion cups and sauces and even cake stands and plates.
May you enjoy your next afternoon tea !