Can you believe that British folk sup their way through 165 million cups of tea every day? In fact, despite the high street chic of coffee, apparently, we still drink more than twice as much tea as coffee.
Of course, the Chinese have been drinking it for centuries – the story goes that the delights of tea drinking were an unexpected discovery made by Chinese Emperor and herbalist Shen Nung, when some tea leaves fell into his boiling cauldron; he tasted the brew and the rest is history. It reached our shores in the mid 1600s at a time when coffee drinking was already popular and once it became affordable to the masses, it took off in a big way.
While tea aficionados get a bit sniffy about tea bags, they now account for about 96% of the tea we drink. There’s an understandable popularity about them because they’re so quick and convenient, but the flavour truly is a world away from some of the finest loose leaf teas that are now quite easily available from specialist importers. We’re currently working our way through the delights of some first flush Darjeeling black tea and a divine white tea with an incredibly delicate flavour, so we know first hand that compared to a standard tea bag brew, it’s like comparing chalk and cheese!
The tradition of taking ‘Afternoon tea’ is credited to the wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford, Anna Maria, who was allegedly partial to a cup of tea and a bite to eat during the mid afternoon to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner and the habit was copied and adopted as a social occasion by many other ladies of the era. It became synonymous with drinking tea from the finest china cups, accompanies by dainty portions of food such as sandwiches, scones and cakes presented on beautiful crockery.
If you want to get fancy about your tea, a proper afternoon tea is an event to be savoured even today and is a perfect way to while away an afternoon after some retail therapy (especially if you go the whole hog and splash out on a champagne afternoon tea!)
Top places for afternoon tea in London
Afternoon tea at the Waldorf Hilton with its historic pedigree, this has to be one of the most prestigious places to head for afternoon tea in London. And there’s no telling who you might be in the company of – all sorts of stars have passed through their doors over the years, Gertrude Lawrence, Elizabeth Taylor, Pavarotti, Pierce Brosnan, the list goes on…
Afternoon tea at the Goring the famous hotel that achieved glittering status when it was selected as the base for the Middleton family wedding party before the Royal Wedding in 2011. For a taste of the ambiance you can tuck into a traditional afternoon tea in Garden Bar and Terrace.
Afternoon tea at Curve restaurant bar– with the afternoon tea for 2 for £30 offer they have at the moment, this is a good one for the budget conscious to enjoy a bit of indulgence whilst overlooking the waterfront at Canary Wharf and there’s even a glass of champagne thrown in.
More afternoon tea offers for London and the UK
From cheese to chocolate and asparagus to apples, it seems the nation has embraced the celebration of good food.
Thanks to the resurgent interest in local and British produce, there has never been a better time to get out and sample some of the fabulous food that is produced in the UK. Up and down the country, a wealth of food festivals are promoting everything from regionally produced foodstuffs, through to one off gourmet ingredients.
If you’d like to get a taste for some great British food, here’s a roundup of some food festivals around the country during the next couple of months.
The 2011 Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink
Taking place from 29th April – 1st May in the courtyard of Exeter Castle. All sorts of exciting stuff, including a chance to see top chefs such as Michael Caines of Abode restaurant. Adult tickets are £7 for a day or £15 for the weekend.
Real Street Food Festival
Taking place from 29th April – 2nd May in the Southbank Centre, London and brings together the new generation of exciting street food vendors.
The Dales Festival of Food and Drink
Taking place from 30th April – 2nd May in Leyburn, in the heart of Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. 2011 sees the festival celebrating its 10th birthday and it will feature over 80 food exhibitors, food farming demonstrations, a cookery theatre and a real ale section. Adult tickets are £8 for one day, or £12 for three days.
Real Food Festival
Taking place 5th – 8th May at Earls Court, London The Real Food Festival is a highlight of the food festival calendar, bringing together a wide range of food producers and chefs, it is the place to find out the all the latest developments in the world of food and drink. Adult tickets are £13.50 in advance or £20 on the door.
Bath Coffee Festival
Taking place 21st – 22nd May on Bath recreation ground. A celebration of all things coffee, with Barista demonstrations, music and more. Admission is free and 50% of any profits from the event will go to The Bath Rugby Community Foundation.
West Wales Food Festival
Taking place 14th – 15th May at the National Botanic Garden, Carmarthenshire, Wales, the festival will have everything from chef demonstrations to information on grow your own, beekeeping and wild food. Adult tickets are £8.50. Usual gardens admission prices apply.
Sheffield Food Festival
Taking place Sheffield city centre, South Yorkshire. There will be cooking demonstrations, a grow your own zone and markets for Italian and local farmers produce, plus loads of other scrumptious options. Open to all.
Taste of Edinburgh
Taking place 1st – 3rd July at The Meadows, Edinburgh. A weekend of fine dining to bring together the best of Scotland’s culinary greats. Adult tickets from £12 in advance.