The English tradition of afternoon
tea as a time for relaxation, refreshment, and socializing dates
to the 1840s. It can be traced to Anna, the 7th duchess of Bedford. One day, the duchess asked that a tray of tea and some bread and cakes be brought to her room about 4 PM, to tide her over until the customary 9 PM dinner hour. This practice spread among her friends. Over time, what began as one woman s late-afternoon pick-me-up developed into a social occasion. However, it was Queen Victoria who popularized the custom of taking afternoon tea.
The ritual of having tea has been a source of fascination and pleasure for more than a century and a half. For many of us, our first encounter with this ritual occurred when we were children. Charmed by the smallness of the cups and saucers, delighted with tiny sandwiches and other treats, we were thrilled to step away from our everyday selves and enter a world of beautiful politeness. See pictures of the tea room here.