Tea has been a part of my routine since I was a child. My parents are both English, and despite my Canadian upbringing, my life has been influenced by British culture for as long as I can remember. So much so I hightailed it to the United Kingdom months after my high school graduation to embrace my heritage with full force.
It was at this point that my relationship to tea reached a whole new level and I found myself surrounded by people who take their tea in such particular ways that lifelong friendships could be easily lost by improper milk and sugar denominations mixed into the cosy beverage.
So committed are the Brits to their tea habits that the British National Grid Electricity Transmission Network has to brace itself for what they call TV pickup, an electricity phenomenon completely unique to Great Britain. Tea culture is so strong in BlighTea (blighty = slang for Britain) that at the exact moment of a popular tv episodes completion, such a large amount of the population rise from their sofas to make a cup of tea that 1.75 million kettles are turned on at the exact same time creating a surge of electricity which pulls an additional three gigawatts of power for the 3-5 minutes it takes each kettle to boil. So big is this surge that backup power stations have to go on standby across the country, with additional power on the ready in France, just in case the UK grid can’t cope.
That’s how much they love their tea.
With their (rather un-green) boiling and steepings come other traditions, too. Namely, the afternoon tea or high tea, which date back to the seventeenth century when Princess Catherine of Braganza, who married King Charles II, brought tea to the Royal Courts setting a trend amongst English aristocrats, and eventually, the country as a whole. The afternoon tea party was born not long after tea’s arrival on the island, and has remained as a much loved social trend since.
It’s a unique tradition which has long been a favourite of mine. It combines, in a way that ignites a bit of childlike wonder, an aesthetic of royal-esque luxury while simultaneously creating an environment of intimacy, one which the modern world could benefit from more of; No one is checking their emails or watching YouTube videos when there are tiered plates of sandwiches and cakes with hot scones and fresh jam laid out in front of them alongside a hot cup of tea. It just isn’t possible.
Which is why, despite its indications of indulgence, I highly recommend hosting your own afternoon tea at your next social occasion. As a treat to yourself and a wink to the ancient realm.
ALL YOU NEED FOR AFTERNOON TEA
- Scones: With Cornish cream and jam.
- Finger Sandwiches: Cucumber, smoked salmon, egg salad, or chicken salad (traditionally with the crusts cut off, but we set this up for my sister’s birthday and she’s a crust lover we let them be… plus food waste is not our forte).
- Light Cakes: Try Hannah’s Orange Spice Tea Cake recipe!