Tea is generally the favourite beverage for the British. Most people in Britain drink tea every day. Britain ranks number one in per capita consumption of tea in the world. Since Britain does not produce tea itself,for a very long time Britain's tea import also ranks number one in the world, It is fair to say that the British can represent the entire Europe in tea drinking customs.
The British do not have a very long history of tea drinking. In 1662, Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza married Charles II of England, She introduced the custom of drinking ten to the British court, a custom that was already very popular in her native Portugal. Catherine saw tea as a beauty drink. Because of her obsession with tea, she was also called the tea-drinking queen. Under her promotion, the custom of drinking tea became very popular at the British court. It then spread to the aristocracy. Eventually the common people picked up on the custom.
The British like the dense taste of milk black tea and lemon black tea, and particularly emphasize afternoon tea. The custom of afternoon tea originated during the Victorian Age in the late 19th Century. The British emphasize breakfast, but neglect lunch. Dinner was served late in the evening at around 8 o'clock. The tong afternoon between meals left people hungry. Anna Maria Stanhope, Duchess of Bedford, thought to add afternoon tea, so that thought to add afternoon tea, so that People would not be too hungry firing the long afternoon.
One afternoon, the Duchess felt bored and also a little hungry. So she ordered a cup of tea, a couple of slices of bread and some butter to alleviate her hunger before dinner. She was satisfied with the snack. So since then, she often invited her friends over to drink black tea and sample fine snacks in the afternoon.
Very quickly, the extra light meal, afternoon tea, became very popular with the aristocratic society. It has now been evolved into a distinctive part of British tea culture.
At the beginning, the British had afternoon tea at home. People usually entertain friends and family in the best room in the house using the best vintage tea sets. Great tea and exquisite snacks are the focus of afternoon tea. With the accompaniment of classical music,a couple of good friends together enjoy a nice relaxing afternoon. As time goes by,afternoon tea became a social occasion where friends spend time together. Many complicated formalities developed.
Formal Victorian afternoon tea is very precise in etiquette. Here are a number of basic requirements from the past.
(1) The formal time to have afternoon tea is 4 o'clock. This is also known as low tea.
(2) Men must wear tuxedos and top hats and hold umbrellas. Women must wear long dresses and hats.
(3) As a show of respect to the guests,the hostess must personally serve the guests in her formal clothing. She could use the help of servants only when absolutely necessary.
(4) Snacks must be served in a three-levelled tray.
The first level served sandwiches. the second level scones, and third level cakes and tarts. The snacks must be served from the top level down. When eating scones, one first spreads jam, then butter, then bites.
This is the expected manners of gentlemen and ladies. No one can be careless on manners. At the time, black tea in Britain was almost entirely imported from China. So people were especially cautious about their tea. To prevent theft, tea was locked in a special tea cabinet. Everyday at tea time, servants were sent to get the key to unlock the tea cabinet.
Now all the formality around afternoon tea has been simplified. But the correct brewing method, great variety of tea snacks, and the elegant atmosphere at tea time have been passed down as part of the afternoon tea custom. Nowadays, all the public entertainment sites serve afternoon tea. On trains, tea baskets containing tea, bread, biscuits, brown sugar, milk and lemon, are prepared for passengers. Afternoon tea is now an important part of British daily life. Its popularity is also quickly spreading to the rest of Europe.