Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford (September 3, 1783 – July 3, 1857) was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria whom she served as a Lady of the Bedroom between 1837 and 1841. She was also the originator of the British meal “afternoon tea”.
The Duchess is best remembered for starting and popularizing the British meal “afternoon tea.” During the 18th century, dinner came to be served later and later in the day until by the early 19th century, the normal time was between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. An extra meal called luncheon had been created to fill the midday gap between breakfast and dinner, but as this new meal was very light, the long afternoon with no refreshment at all left her feeling hungry. She found a light meal of tea and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. The Duchess found taking an afternoon snack to be such a lovely refreshment that she soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon tea quickly became popular in wealthy homes throughout England.
I find afternoon tea to be such an enjoyable time with friends, whether it’s for a special occasion or to just spend some time chatting. It’s an easy meal to prepare and the process of laying the table for tea is a ritual in itself that completes the atmosphere. Laying the table with traditional vintage English china, flatware, linens and serving pieces that I brought home with me from my time living in England, brewing the perfect cup of tea and then sitting back and watching as my guests enjoy themselves and inevitably leave saying “You have made me feel so special.” What could be more enjoyable?
Happy Tea Times,