Afternoon Tea Week – Celebrating an English Ritual

Monday 12th August saw the start of Afternoon Tea Week. Afternoon Tea is a tea-related ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. It evolved as a mini meal to stem the hunger and anticipation between lunch and an evening meal.

Anna Russel, the seventh Duchess of Bedford
Anna Russel, the seventh Duchess of Bedford

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.

Nowadays however, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag. However, if you ever find yourself participating in a traditional Afternoon Tea here are some suggested Do’s and Don’ts… see what you think!

  • DO try a little of each food served at the tea (both sweets and savouries).
  • DO spread a scone with cream first, then jam.
  • DO avoid talking with your mouth full or taking large bites.
  • DO wait until you have swallowed your food before you take a sip of tea. The rule is one or the other, please!
  • DO look into–not over–your teacup when sipping. It’s polite!
  • DO place your napkin on the chair if you must leave the table during the event. (If you must leave for some reason, simply say “Excuse me.”)


  • DON’T tip your teacup too much when drinking–keep it slightly tipped.
  • DON’T leave your spoon in the cup. Place it on your saucer instead.
  • DON’T remove food from your teeth while in the presence of others.
  • DON’T move your plate more than 1 inch the edge of the table, and don’t push your plate away from the edge of the table when you’re done eating.
  • DON’T talk about personal food likes or dislikes during the tea. Tea offers a nice selection of treats to avoid this problem.
  • DON’T place your napkin on the table until you are ready to leave the table.


While these “Do’s and Don’ts” all add to the ambience of Afternoon Tea, we won’t be expecting you to follow these suggested rules at The Merstham Mix … we would just love to see you at the Café, enjoying a cup of tea and interacting with the community!

Plus… we always have home-made cake on sale, to enjoy with your beverage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ten + fourteen =