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The History of Afternoon Tea for Two

It is largely considered that the British tradition of Afternoon Tea originated from the mid 1840’s and first begun by one of Queen Victoria’s (1819-1901) ladies in waiting, Miss Anna Maria Stanhope (1783-1857), the 7th Duchess of Bedford.

Considering the early lunch time and traditional late dinner of 8.00-9.00pm, the Duchess complained of a ‘sinking feeling’ roughly around 4.00pm-5.00pm late afternoon.
At first she convinced her servants to sneak her pots of tea and pieces of bread. She then evolved her idea, invited friends to Belvoir Castle and indulged in a small feast of tarts, cakes, scones, other niceties and of course, pots of tea. The custom became so popular that she continued it on returning to London by inviting all of her friends to her house and this was eventually picked up by other hostesses.

Due to social dynamics and the role of the woman in the household at the time, women were allowed in tea shops and tea gardens if accompanied by a male companion. A lady was considered too delicate to be allowed to venture into the world alone and as a result they had to entertain in private or be escorted by a male companion.
Yet when the men were frequenting the clubs for the mid-day meals, the women were not allowed to frequent public establishments to meet other women in the afternoon/early evening. Hence why they began to invite women into their homes and how the tradition of Afternoon Tea began to take Britain by storm.