Although tea as a beverage has been around for thousands of years the idea of having tea as a meal has only been around since the mid 1800’s. The idea has been credited to Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford. Before the industrial revolution at the turn of the 19th century most of the commoners of the British Isles were farm workers and accustomed to just 2 meals a day…breakfast just after sunup and dinner just before sundown. Anna, who you may have guessed, was neither a commoner nor a farm worker, felt that 2 meals a day was not quite enough. Even the elite were quite used to having a very late dinner and Anna just could not wait as she quite often experienced a sinking feeling in her stomach in the afternoon. She discovered that if she had a pot of tea along with some sandwiches and a plate of cakes and scones brought to her chambers this would tide her over until dinner. As Anna thought this idea should be shared, she immediately told all her friends and afternoon tea became all the rage. Ladies were encourage to use their best china and linen when inviting friends to tea and to be creative with sandwich fillings and sweets. Anna at one time was a hand maid of Queen Victoria and the Queen was enamored of the idea and so it gained further popularity.
It was not until a few decades later in the 1890’s that tea became popular with the general population. Mostly because before this time it was not acceptable for woman to go out and dine on their own and they were often left to amuse themselves in hotel lobbies while their husbands did business. The hoteliers got very smart and set about offering a light repast for woman to enjoy in the lobby. This was a very grand affair with china, linen and lovely three tiered stands with an abundance of sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and small sweets. Tea was served on a low tea table and everyone wanted to be part of the afternoon tea crowd. Afternoon tea is still served all over the British Isles from around 2 – 5:00 in the afternoon as a light repast. This elegant affair can be called an afternoon tea, a sweet tea or a low tea.
As the industrial revolution got into full steam people were moving out of the farm land and into the cities. They were no longer working from sunup to sundown and the work day had settled into 8 hour shifts. It was at this time that the common working man decided that he wanted to get in on having a third meal everyday as well. Queen Victoria is credited with the idea of high tea which was the working man’s third meal he would have after returning home from work. High tea is served around 5:30 or 6:00 and gets its name from the table from which it is eaten. When tea became a popular meal in the home it was no longer taken from a low tea table but generally in the dining room at a high table. Thus the term “high tea”. High tea is still the main meal of the day in the British Isle and generally consists of meat and potatoes(often fish and chips) bread and butter and sweets. This working man’s meal can be called a high tea, a meat tea or a full tea.
As tearooms became fashionable they would offer an afternoon tea but would also offer a menu for lunch time foods. For people who just wanted to stop for a quick bite, cream teas were added to the menu. A cream tea is a plate of scones with cream for the scones and tea. As cream tea became more popular different area of England would offer their own version such as a Devon Cream Tea or a Dorset Cream Tea. Many tearooms also offer a glass of champagne with their afternoon tea.
We are so excited that tearooms have had a resurgence in recent years and we are adding a few more of our favorite Scottish tearooms. Miss Bentley’s in Edinburgh, Sir Walter Scott Tearooms in Edinburgh, Bradford’s in Glasgow, The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow, Angus Tearoom in Kirriemuir, Moon and Sixpense in Aberfeldy, Trumperton Forge in Letham, Gordon’s Tearoom in Braemar, The Tea Room in Stirling, Tannochbrae Tearoom in Auchtermuchty just to name a few.