THOSE cute little cakes, fresh scones and of course a sandwich or two. Afternoon tea has grown in popularity over the last few years.
And it’s easy to understand why. The tasty treat appeals to all ages, while enjoying an afternoon tea is a fantastic way to socialise and enjoy time together with friends and family.
The recent surge in demand has led to some really interesting and original modern twists on the ritual. With a bit of imagination there’s no reason why it can’t be adapted for every taste.
But where does the concept for afternoon tea come from – and what makes the best afternoon tea in Stoke-on-Trent?
Afternoon Tea Traditions
Tea itself was first brought to Britain in the 17th century. Although it was initially a luxury product, seen as a fashionable beverage among the upper classes, it wasn’t long before a nice cup of tea become synonymous with the British way of life.
Teaming it with a tray full of fancies however originated in about 1840, by the 7th Duchess of Bedford Anna Russell (nee Stanhope). In the 19th century, evening meals were served sometime around 8pm or 9pm meaning there was a significant gap after lunch.
The Duchess, trying to ward off the hunger pangs, requested a pot of tea and a light meal be brought to her quarters and it wasn’t long before it become routine. Her friends soon joined her and so the occasion grew into a social pastime.
The light meal evolved with the gatherings to include sandwiches, scones and pastries and Queen Victoria became a regular host of afternoon tea parties, which as the name suggests took place at about 4pm.
What is High Tea?
While the aristocrats were enjoying dainty morsels, the idea of sitting down to tea at the end of a shift meant something a little different to the working classes.
Bread and butter, cold cuts, cheeses and pie along with a steaming cuppa or a beer were served at family homes up and down the country at about 5pm, when the workers returned home.
With afternoon tea generally served in private quarters on ‘low’ tables, like a coffee table, with the ladies in arm chairs or settees, this meal was usually delivered at the main dining room table and become known as ‘high tea’.
A cream tea is usually a pot of tea served with scones, jam and cream. In what order you smother these on the scones is entirely up to you!
Here at The Glost House we serve our home-made fruit scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
How to Serve Afternoon Tea
Of course the birth of afternoon tea coincided with an era of industrial productivity, with coal-generated steam power and improved transport systems by rail and canal transforming Victorian Britain.
In Stoke-on-Trent, ceramics manufacturing was flourishing with more than 300 potbanks in operation at the turn of the 19th century. The Phoenix Works http://www.phoenix-works.co.uk/, home to The Glost House, was built by Thomas Forester in 1881 and is one of a number of Victorian pottery factories standing in Stoke-on-Trent. Other examples include Middleport Pottery, home to Burleigh, and the Royal Overhouse Manufactory, home to Royal Stafford, both in Burslem. Gladstone Pottery Museum, not far from The Glost House in Longton, gives a fascinating insight into the conditions of the time.
To serve the demand for afternoon tea, the finest fine bone china, along with the best linen and silverware, were created to be used in service.
A three-tier tea stand is still often used to serve afternoon tea with savouries on the bottom plate and sweet courses presented above, scones on top. A cake salver or cake stand would also be used to show off the bakes.
Guests dressed in all their finery and afternoon tea parties were often served in the garden, becoming great civilised gatherings where ladies could catch up on the latest news. By 1870, tea shops were established in parts of London, serving the very popular meal on a daily basis.
Standing the Test of Time
By the early 20th century tea dances were being held, allowing men and women to meet and socialise and enjoy afternoon tea together.
But the Second World War meant tea was rationed and around the time restrictions were lifted, the tea bag, invented in America, had found its way to Britain. Tea rooms and restaurants had reduced their menus and the tradition became less wide spread as some venues did not survive the Blitz.
Yet while modern life means afternoon tea is no longer a daily ritual, the tradition has not died altogether.
In fact in recent years, the afternoon tea has enjoyed quite a renaissance.
And whether you favour a mug of builders or the occasional cup of Earl Grey with lemon, it has evolved into an event to be enjoyed by everyone.
Afternoon tea in Longton in 2020
It’s the perfect treat for all ages. Afternoon tea at The Glost House follows tradition and is served at our café Monday to Saturday if pre-booked minimum 24 hours in advance – and is also available to take home and enjoy.
Our filled baby baps elevate the experience from a fancy buffet to an event to celebrate, with vegan options, vegetarian fillings and a gluten-free menu to choose from.
Home-made cakes are served alongside fruit scones, not forgetting the jam and cream, and of course the all-important pot of loose leaf Cheshire Tea or coffee for those who prefer.
And it tastes all the better for being served on ceramics made or designed and sold right here in Stoke-on-Trent.
We pay special attention to each and every element to ensure the experience is one to remember.
To book afternoon tea at The Glost House, or to order your own platter to enjoy at home or give as a gift, call 01782 479544.
Alternatively head on over to our takeaway page https://www.theglosthouse.co.uk/takeaway-menu/