Monday, July 1, 2013

The History of Afternoon Tea

‘I can resist anything except temptation!’

Oscar Wilde

In the second installment of ‘101 Things to do...’ we will be exploring the history of a delightful indulgence; Afternoon tea. Whether you want to relax after a game of golf, sight-seeing or just wish to unwind with your friends, Afternoon Tea is a wonderful treat.

Akin to Waterford Castle itself, the culture and customs of Afternoon Tea are steep in history. While tea drinking is an embedded Irish tradition, afternoon tea finds its roots in 19 century English high society circles.
The conception of the Afternoon Tea custom is often accredited to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the early 19th century. It seems 19th century society suffered an affliction which lasts to this day; the need for a mid afternoon sugar rush! The duchess often complained of having a 'sinking feeling' by late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to only eat to meals a day; breakfast, and dinner at around 8pm in the evening. The conclusion for the Duchess was a pot of tea and a light snack; enjoyed in the privacy of her boudoir during the afternoon.

Eventually, Anna came to realize that her private daily treat could become a social gathering. She would invite friends to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London. Other society hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became  respectable enough to move into the drawing room, Before long, all of the fashionable society were sipping tea and indulging in savory and sweet treats in the middle of the afternoon.
Needless to say, afternoon tea soon became a prominent feature of Irish high society through the Anglo- Irish establishment of the time.

Although it is now sometimes referred to as ‘high tea’, traditionally the upper classes would have served a ‘low’ or ‘afternoon’ tea around four o’clock, just before the fashionable promenade in London’s Hyde Park. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial ‘high’ tea later in the day, at five or six o’ clock, in place of late dinner. The names originate from the height of the tables on which the meals are served, with high tea being served on a dinner table.

While much has changed down through the centuries, it can be established that the ornate luxury of Afternoon Tea has remained mostly untouched. While it now may be subject to come modern flare, Afternoon Tea traditionally starts with savory finger-sized smoked salmon, cucumber or egg and cress sandwiches; followed by scones with jam and cream or clotted cream and a selection of cakes. The tea is traditionally served from a heavy, ornate, silver teapot into delicate china cups. Milk or lemon can be served with the tea, subject to personal preference. The sandwiches, scones and cakes should arrive at the table on a tiered cake stand.

Afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the opulent surrounding of our Fitzgerald Bar Room or in the castle conservatory, where guests are treated to a spectacular view of the castle grounds. Afternoon tea service takes place between the times of 3pm- 5pm. To make a reservation please contact hotel reception on 051- 878203.

If you a planning a trip to Waterford Castle Hotel, why not view our ‘101 things to do’, which contains a variety of activities which can be enjoyed during your trip. To view the list, please visit . Additionally, if you are planning to visit Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort or if you have recently stayed with us, why not visit our Tripadvisor page .

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