5 o’clock tea. What do you need for traditional afternoon tea?

Mary Cassatt “Five O’clock Tea”

How to arrange a traditional 5 o’clock tea party in our busy life? What do you need to provide your guests with a wonderful afternoon tea time? There are four main things that you need for 5 o’clock tea party: right tea, porcelain tea set, decorations, and sweet additions – learn more from our article.

For more than 200 years, people in the British Isles have been slowing down at 5 o’clock to relax with a china cup of tea and a plate of sweets. Five o’clock is a time of rest and contemplation. We invite you to an English afternoon tea!

One of the most famous English traditions originated at the beginning of the XIX century in Woburn Abbey, the residence of the Duchess Anna Maria Russell. The noblewoman had a problem with the custom that existed at that time, according to which they had lunch around noon, and then they had to wait for dinner, which usually started only around 19 o’clock.

Russell often went hungry, so she decided to introduce a new tradition of afternoon tea accompanied by small snacks. The Duchess was most fond of small ham and cucumber sandwiches, as well as salty biscuits originally from Scotland, called “scones”.

Afternoon tea was organized in a room called the Blue Drawing Room, usually around 5 PM. Over time, more and more women began to appear in that room. The fashion for an afternoon cup of tea, which is a great excuse for pleasant gatherings, quickly went beyond the walls of Woburn Abbey and began to spread among the British aristocracy. Even Queen Victoria, a great lover of tea, who was not allowed to drink it as a child, fell in love with it.

So, what do you need for a traditional tea party?

The most important thing is, of course, tea. We love it, so this part of the ceremony is very close to us. If you want to prepare a tea party in the English style, you should try to use the best products that you brew yourself.

British people especially appreciate Earl Grey, that is, black tea with the addition of bergamot oil, which improves mood and stimulates the brain. You can also experiment with other types. An interesting offer may be white tea, which is not coincidentally called the “elixir of youth”. This infusion contains a very large amount of antioxidants that inhibit the aging process. Pu-Erh red tea has a specific taste, which effectively burns fat and lowers the level of “bad” cholesterol.

If you want to have a traditional British Five o’clock, you should try tea with milk. Milk became an integral part of English tea culture back in the 17th century when it was added to the Cup to prevent it from cracking from scalding boiling water. Today, the answer to the question of why they drink tea with milk in England is that black varieties give a stronger brew – and in order to soften its taste, milk is the best fit.

A tea party cannot be without snacks. In the version called full tea, there should be small sandwiches on the table: with ham, smoked fish, or a variety of cheeses, as well as various salty snacks, cakes, and cookies.

Preparing such a meal requires a lot of work and time, which, as a rule, we do not have enough. Therefore, the best option is light tea, that is, an afternoon tea that involves only tea and cookies.

Little has changed since the days of the Duchess of Russell: the British still love scones, or round cookies made from flour, butter, milk, and baking powder, sometimes with the addition of dried fruits (such as raisins). Scones are not too sweet, so the goodies-lovers eat them with strawberry jam.

The traditional addition is also clotted cream made from unpasteurized milk, which is first heated and then left to cool, resulting in the formation of characteristic nodules on the surface (the English call them clots, which is where the name of the delicacy comes from).

The tea party could become a full-fledged social event, and in this case it was arranged as ceremoniously as possible: they wrote and sent out invitations in advance, thought out games (usually card games) and selected novelties of literature to read to the guests. You can find ideas for tea party decorations from literature.

A general overview of English fiction shows the huge role that tea drinking plays in the life of every Briton. It is difficult to find at least one English novel of the XIX century or a modern film that does not have a tea party scene. The ritual of “afternoon tea” is vividly represented in the works of William Thackeray, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, and Bernard Shaw.

Sherlock Holmes – in the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, created by the Queen of detective Agatha Christie, solve the most complicated problems with a cup of tea. For them, the traditional English tea party is not only a wonderful ritual, but also an opportunity to gather their thoughts in order to put together all the pieces of the detective puzzle.

Certainly, one of the most striking examples of five o’clock tea, written in a humorous manner, is an excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice’s adventures in Wonderland”. The writer called this scene a “mad hatter’s tea party”: the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse had their time stopped at 5 o’clock, and now the three of them must drink tea forever. Exactly “mad hatter’s tea party” is one of the favorite plots of tea parties.

One of the secrets of the charm of English tea drinking is its elegant serving. Try to come up with unusual napkin holders or imagine what non-obvious object in your home could serve as a stand for sweets. Fresh flowers or figurines, or books placed on the table will also add coziness to the atmosphere. Tea set also matters. Mugs with thick walls will not fit (traditional tea parties are often characterized by the use of prestige utensils), but thin porcelain and bone china will be the best choice. You will need a teapot, tea cups for everyone, and serving ware for any creamers and sweeteners you are going to provide.

If you have read this article to the end, then you are definitely ready to organize a traditional tea party on your own. Explore our store to find everything you need for a great tea party.

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