Although I’ve lived in the UK most of my life, I had never indulged in afternoon tea. To me it was one of those quaint English traditions reserved for posh, elderly people who have nothing else to do all day.
However, a few years in America can make you unexpectedly homesick and last Christmas, on a trip back to London, I indulged in my first afternoon tea experience and loved it!
Now, we’re not talking a simple cup of Earl Grey after 12pm - afternoon tea is a small snack or meal that includes savories and sweets, usually consumed around 4pm, with hot tea.
The snack can consist of cucumber, egg and cress or smoked salmon finger-sized sandwiches, scones (which are unsweetened or lightly sweetened biscuit-like cakes) with clotted cream and jam or jelly, along with pastries like fruit cake or biscuits (cookies).
Are you salivating yet?
Despite my perception that this distinctly British custom was slightly old-fashioned I was surprised to see how popular it’s become. Many big city hotels and restaurants in the UK are serving up varied afternoon tea menus. The package I was treated to came with a glass of champagne and over 20 types of tea!
It’s also not just a British thing anymore. Tea-lovers across the world are hosting afternoon tea parties as an idea for a bridal or baby shower, birthday gathering or probably the most fitting of all - a Mother’s Day celebration.
Having afternoon tea has become a great way to honor mother’s in the UK (and elsewhere). Although it doesn’t always have to be a formal affair, the whole experience of dressing up and eating from fine china makes it special and a great way to relax and bond.
If you can’t find a place where you live hosting a Mother’s Day tea, how about doing your own?
To get you started here’s a simple recipe for a classic afternoon tea item - cucumber and mint tea sandwiches.
- 1 loaf white bread (such as buttermilk bread) or brown bread
- 1 thinly sliced English cucumber (peeling is optional)
- The leaves from 2 large sprigs fresh mint (chopped or whole)
- Softened butter
- (Optional) lemon juice, to taste
- (Optional) salt and pepper to taste
- For every two slices of bread, spread both slices evenly and thinly with butter.
- Cover one side of the sandwich with sliced cucumber in one to two layers.
- Add a thin layer of fresh mint.
- Season with lemon juice, salt and/or pepper.
- Put the slices together, cut off the crusts and slice the sandwich diagonally two times to create four triangle finger sandwiches.