Hong Kong has dim sum and yum cha throughout the day, Spain has tapas and pintxos to consume during their mid-afternoon siestas – and Britain has its traditional Afternoon Tea!
In hotels and tea shops, food is often served on a tiered stand; there may be no sandwiches, but bread or scones with butter or margarine and optional jam or other spread, or toast, muffins or crumpets. Nowadays, a formal afternoon tea is often taken as a treat in a hotel or tea shop. It was the emergence of afternoon tea that saw Britain regard biscuits as something “dunked” in tea – a British custom that was later exported around the globe.
Let’s take a look at 6 of my favourite English Afternoon Tea items:
Scones are single-serving cakes or quick breads. They are usually made of wheat, barley or oatmeal, with baking powder as a leavening agent, and are baked on sheet pans. They are often lightly sweetened and are occasionally glazed.
Hot Cross Buns are spiced sweet buns made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten over the Easter period in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries.
Cherry Bakewells are English confections consisting of a shortcrust pastry with a layer of jam and a sponge using ground almonds.
Chelsea Buns are a type of currant bun that was first created in the 18th century at the Bun House in Chelsea, an establishment favoured by Hanoverian royalty which was demolished in 1839.
Battenberg is a light sponge cake with the pieces covered in jam. The cake is covered in marzipan and, when cut in cross section, displays a distinctive two-by-two check pattern alternately coloured pink and yellow.
Highland Shortbread is a type of biscuit traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. It is known as a Scottish delicacy.
The success of the traditional English Afternoon Tea led to other countries around the world, especially France, creating their own version. Even when travelling in far away places such as Dubai, Egypt, or Sri Lanka you may be invited to indulge in some “high tea” at the hotel in which you are staying. Depending on the region you’re in at the time, you may see sandwiches, chocolates, or cream cakes beside the teapot – and in France I noticed that macrons and éclairs are par for the course!
How to throw a good tea party from the BBC.