Tea truly does have a fascinating history! From traveling on the spice caravans in fermented rounds, to being dumped in an American harbor to tea plantations being fought over in India, tea has so many stories to tell! Tea has even been used as medicine in ancient cultures. Powdered green tea, known as matcha, still has a very important ceremony surrounding it in China and Japan.
But the country that has embrace tea the most, outside of China, is the country of England. Like the ancient tea rituals in China still practiced today, England gave us the modern ritual of afternoon tea.
Though it is hard to pinpoint when the actual ritual of afternoon tea began, most stories point to the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess of Bedford was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria in the mid-1800s. Because the upper class during that time had a very late dinner hour (sometimes not eating until 8 pm!), the hours between without food could get very long.
The Duchess of Bedford began asking for tea, bread, butter and cake to be brought to her room to help her make it through to the late dinner hour. She continued the practice and invited friends to join her. And so the ritual of afternoon tea was created because one lady was hungry 🙂
Later on, a whole culture and tradition soon began to develop around afternoon tea. Tea services were created and manners and traditions followed. However, afternoon tea is different than high tea. High tea is very much like dinner served with heartier fare and sometimes stronger drinks that tea. Afternoon tea falls between 2 and 5 pm and has lighter fare such as scones, tea, cake and tea sandwiches.