Afternoon tea is recognised around the world as being something traditionally British. Nobody knows the exact origins of the afternoon tea but one lady features in all theories, Anna, Seventh Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), lady in waiting to her majesty, Queen Victoria.
Traditionally, dinner was not served until 8.30 or 9.00 in the evening and the Duchess often became hungry, especially in the summer when dinner was served even later. Every afternoon, she experienced a “sinking feeling” and requested sandwiches and cakes between 3pm and 4pm in the afternoon.
Soon others followed the duchess’ lead. In 1842, a well known actress named Fanny Kemble heard of Afternoon tea, and began to invite some guests to join her. Soon all of fashionable London was sipping tea with a variety of sandwiches on the side. The custom of “taking tea” in the afternoon had become well established, along with a complex set of rules and etiquette.
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The Palm Court > Afternoon Tea