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Blog > Top Ten Quintessential Tea Facts

There is nothing more quintessentially English than the habit of drinking tea - in particular in the afternoon, often accompanied by food in one form or another, but around the subject there is plenty of jargon and etiquette which can appear confusing to the uninitiated. Many visitors to London enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at one of London's swanky hotels such as The Ritz, Claridges or The Savoy, consisting of neatly cut sandwiches, fruit scones and dainty slices of cake but do you know the difference between "low" or "high" tea or for that matter the difference between afternoon tea and a cream tea?

Here is our attempt to clear it all up with 10 quintessential tea facts!

1. Afternoon tea is said to have been invented by the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the 1840's as a means of filling the hunger gap between lunch and dinner. Anna requested that a pot of tea and a snack to be laid out for her in the afternoon and soon began inviting her friends to join her and its popularity soon spread.

2. High Tea and Low Tea refer to the size of the table on which it was served. High Tea would be served on the dinner table (as opposed to a low "lounge" table) and was a more substantial meal served later in the afternoon between 5.00 and 7.00 pm.

3. "Low Tea" evolved into what we now describe as traditional afternoon tea, such as the experience you enjoy today in London's luxury hotels. At the other end of the scale "High Tea" became popular with the working classes often as a replacement to the main evening meal. In fact, many people in the UK still call their main evening meal of the day "tea".

4. Cream teas are something altogether different and refer to the popular tradition of taking tea with a freshly-made scone (or two!) along with fresh or clotted cream and a preserve such as strawberry jam.

5. Cream teas are believed to have originated from either Devon or Cornwall possibly dating back as long ago as 10th century.

6. To this day many argue about whether the cream or the jam should be applied first to the scone depending of which part of the country you come from. Those from Cornwall will insist it is jam first then cream whereas those from Devon will claim it is the opposite - cream then jam.

7. Another hotly debated topic is the pronunciation of "scone". The nation divides evenly between those who pronounce it as in "gone" and those who say it like "tone".

8. Scones were not added to the traditional afternoon tea menu until much later - in the early 20th century.

9. Almost all Brit's add milk to their tea but only 30% add sugar. Hardly anyone drinks it with a slice of lemon!

10. Do you add milk first or last? Again a hotly contested issue. Like all things in England it comes down to class! Inferior china had the habit a cracking if hot tea was poured in directly before the cold milk. Adding the milk afterwards was a sign your china was superior quality and less prone to cracking.

Date: 04/08/2020 | Author: Justin Taylor

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