English history tells us that Queen Anne first started the time honoured traditions of English Tea Ceremony in 1665. England began importing tea from Asian countries during this year. After that, drinking tea rapidly gained popularity and became a custom in many of the houses in England by 1700. London alone had hundreds of copy shops at that time thus providing a ceremonious acceptance for tea drinking following in the English culture.
British people hold tea ceremonies on special occasions. These include weddings, birthday parties, even the New Year are just some of them. Some international hotels in England also host traditional tea ceremonies for special guests. Most tourists specifically research on the English tea tradition when they are to make a visit to England.
British afternoon tea ceremony enjoys a long history. Unfortunately, modern busy British people have no time to spend on afternoon tea services nowadays. Typically, afternoon tea is offered between 3 and five p.m. Now it has become a custom they carry out only on special occasions.
The history of the Afternoon tea ceremony in England roots back to the year 1800. The Duchess of Bedford did not tolerate being without having dinner at nine p.m. which happened more often. So she had started having a cup of tea with a piece of bread spread with butter. Usually, she enjoyed her Tea with her Royal friends. After that, other high society ladies followed in her footsteps and started hosting friends and treating them with cups of tea served with butter and bread.
Afternoon tea is known as ‘low tea’ as well. Since householders have served tea on low tables in their sitting rooms, British people have recognized the ceremony as the Low Tea custom. However, in the USA, it boasts a High Tea Ceremony. It is not because they serve tea late evenings but because they usually serve tea on high tables.
Traditionally, the participants in afternoon tea ceremony in England, hold cups of tea which have no handles. They lift the cup very slowly balancing it by curving a finger. Wrapping a cup wholly or setting the cup on the palm is treated as uncustomary. Visitors usually use a spoon to stir tea in the cup, but they are careful not to make any sounds by tapping the inner part of the cup with the spoon as they stir the tea. Then they place the spoon on the saucer on its right side. Sip by sip, they place the cup on the saucer. British people more often serve black tea with milk and sugar. Sometimes, they serve tea with lemon slices as well.
Occasionally, a nearby stand holds food. It has many three tiers and visitors customarily serve themselves food from its top to bottom. The first tier contains scones, second sandwiches and the third, sweets. Visitors serve themselves sweets only after having the items on the first two tiers.
Today, the British do not have time to dedicate to afternoon tea ceremonies. But they still engage in these happy moments when they celebrate special events in their lives or when they happen to host guests. In most of the countries where people regularly drink cups of tea, they eagerly wait for having one. People in England also are no different.