PLEASE ONLY TRAVEL WHEN IT IS SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE TO DO SO. Articles have not been updated to reflect any travel restrictions which may be in place, so please check with the destination for up-to-date information. Thank you!

Why You Must Try Afternoon Tea in the UK

Delicate Cakes and Sweet Treats on an Afternoon Tea Stand

I adore afternoon tea.  Tasty sandwiches and savoury snacks coupled with delectable cakes and a pot of tea.  What could be more perfect?  If you’d never heard of afternoon tea or haven’t tasted it yet, here’s everything you need to know about this delicious English tradition.

This site contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Airbnb Associate I earn from qualifying bookings. [Learn more]

This post was written in collaboration with Square Meal

What is Afternoon Tea?

The British love affair with drinking tea began in the 1600s, and it grew in popularity over the years as more tea was imported from India.  As the price of tea fell, it become more accessible to the masses and tea is now a staple of homes in Britain.  A cup of tea is said to cure all ills, but afternoon tea is much more than your average brew.

Traditionally, afternoon tea is light meal eaten in the afternoon, usually between about 3pm and 5pm.  It first started in the 1840s, when the privileged classes enjoyed some delicate snacks in between lunch and dinner.  Cucumber sandwiches and cakes such as the pink and white Battenburg were popular choices.

These days, afternoon tea has evolved into a special treat.  It isn’t common at all to have afternoon tea at home, you might just have a cup of tea and a biscuit.  You’re more likely to have afternoon tea as a celebration or to spend a nice afternoon with friends.  You can even make it extra special by adding a glass of bubbly to make it a champagne afternoon tea!

Afternoon Tea is always Beautifully Presented - Assortment of Cakes, scones and sandwiches on a 3 tier stand
Afternoon Tea is always Beautifully Presented

What Do You Eat for Afternoon Tea?

The food we eat at afternoon tea in the UK has evolved a lot in the last few years, and afternoon tea is now much more than cucumber sandwiches and cake.  There is usually a selection of sandwiches, neatly cut into triangles or rectangles (without the crusts of course!).  Sandwiches can be any flavour and vary everywhere you go.

In addition to sandwiches, there are usually other savoury snacks such as mini quiches, sausage rolls or pork pies, mini samosas and more. 

As for dessert, a scone with clotted cream and jam is a must.  Alongside the scones come mini cakes, slices of chocolate brownie, tiny meringues or cupcakes. 

There are no set rules for what is included in a modern afternoon tea, but everything is usually miniature and dainty, served in a unique way on a layered tray.  Themed afternoon teas are also popular, where all of the food is designed to match the theme, such as a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea.

There are No Rules for What is Included in Afternoon Tea - Mini desserts of chocolate brownie, Eaton Mess, Scone and Clotted Cream on a Wooden tier Box with glimpse of sandwiches and mini soup underneath
There are No Rules for What is Included in Afternoon Tea

What Do You Drink with Afternoon Tea?

While tea is the most obvious choice, I was pleased to find there are no strict rules for that either!  Most afternoon teas will come with a pot of tea, with some having a selection of black, green, herbal or fruit teas to choose from.

Coffee or hot chocolate is also acceptable in most cases, which was a relief for me as I don’t actually like tea!  I enjoyed a delicious chocolate afternoon tea in York which came with a cup of steaming hot chocolate which was divine.

Champagne afternoon teas are also becoming more popular, where you can add a glass of prosecco or champagne to your meal to make it extra special.  For a treat on a day out with the girls or a special occasion, there is nothing quite like posh sandwiches and cakes with a glass of bubbly!  

A Pot of Tea is the Usual Drink for Afternoon Tea - Silver teapot on a tray with sugar cubes
A Pot of Tea is the Usual Drink for Afternoon Tea

Why Should You Try Afternoon Tea?

If I haven’t convinced you already with all the talk of tasty food then I’m not sure what else I can do!  Afternoon tea is one of my favourite British traditions, as you can taste a variety of savoury and sweet foods, all presented in a delightful way.  It is a lovely way to mark a celebration, to enjoy time wih friends or to treat yourself!     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *