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Why Afternoon Tea Is Such A British Institution

There are few things more quintessentially British than afternoon tea. Let’s face it; no television period drama or Merchant-Ivory production is complete without at least one scene depicting this most genteel and sophisticated custom.

But have you ever wondered why afternoon tea is considered to be such a British institution?

If you have then you may find the following article to be well worth a read (over a nice cup of Darjeeling perhaps?).

The Birth of an Institution
During the Georgian era (1714 – 1830), the British upper classes would generally eat their dinner in the middle of the evening (normally after 8.00pm). Because of this, the hiatus between lunch - which was normally quite light - and dinner often spanned six or seven hours.

The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russel – who was the Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria – took it upon herself to address this issue during her trips to Belvoir Castle in the 1840’s. Whilst visiting the Duke of Rutland, she asked a servant to bring her a selection of sliced sandwiches and cakes along with some Darjeeling tea in the afternoon.

To begin with she enjoyed the pleasure of this modest ‘snack’ alone in her room; however, being a rather 'chatty' lady, the Duchess soon began to invite her friends round to join her. As word spread of this sociable and utilitarian practice, afternoon tea caught on like wildfire and became fashionable amongst the noble classes in no time at all.

It was customary at that time for the lower classes to emulate the behaviours and customs of the nobility as this was seen as being a way of bettering one’s self. So, within a relatively short space of time (a few short decades, in fact) the institution of high tea filtered its way into the social fabric of all Britain’s classes and became a resolute mainstay of the country’s national identity. By the turn of the 20th century - when Britain’s Empire was at its height - ‘taking afternoon tea’ had become a widespread activity which people all across Britain and its dominions overseas enjoyed immensely.

Afternoon Tea in the 21st Century
Like the British Empire, the institution of taking afternoon tea has dwindled in modern times. Indeed, most people these days are simply too busy to set aside time every afternoon for a modest meal and some genteel conversation in pleasant surroundings.

However, whilst afternoon tea may no longer be a daily necessity for the nation, it is still seen by many as being a very worthwhile periodical treat. Without doubt, taking afternoon tea in elegant surroundings which invoke the aurora of the 19th/20th centuries is an indulgence of the very highest order.

And that is why we here at The Landmark London – one of the finest luxury hotels in London – are proud to offer a comprehensive afternoon tea menu every day in our gloriously evocative Winter Gardens restaurant.

Explore our pages further to make a reservation or find out more.

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