Looking for Afternoon Tea in Derbyshire?
It’s a thing. You either love it or hate it, have to put up with it or join in but it’s a special thing to indulge in and we all secretly love Afternoon Tea. Whilst you are enjoying a stay in Derbyshire why not get your Afternoon Tea booked up and take time out to relax and enjoy. So here’s a bit more about the tradition of Afternoon Tea.
“There are a few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony know as afternoon tea”
– HENRY JAMES
The Origins of Tea
Let us begin with the tea itself. The actual discovery of tea is surrounded by myth and mystery, but it did originate in China. The story relates to how in 2737BC, the learned Emperor Shen Nung was gathering plants. He rested under a tall wild tea bush and boiled some water for refreshment. A few leaves drifted down from the branches and fell into his water. The resulting stimulating and refreshing liquor is what we now know as tea. The wild plant has been cultivated for millennia. Connoisseurs during the T’ang dynasty (618-906AD) crushed steamed leaves to make a sort of tea powder to mix with flavourings.
The Sung Dynasty (960-1279AD) whipped ground tea into hot water until it was frothy; flowers and essential oils were added to make it exotic. It was not until the Middle Ages (1368-1644AD) that drinkers in China developed the tea as we know it today. Steamed leaves were dried and added loose to water and left to steep, before being poured into white porcelain to display its colour. Drying the leaves allowed the tea to ferment or oxidise to a coppery red and made it easier to store, it also meant it was fit to travel to far off lands.
Tea drinking in Britain
It took twelve to fifteen months for the precious shipments to travel to Britain by sea. The cost of bringing it so far made sure only the wealthy were able to enjoy the luxury of the tea in its unadulterated form. In 1707, the famous Fortnum and Mason duo became tea merchants to host the discerning tea drinkers at their establishment in St. James’, London.
By 1840 the refreshment ritual of drinking tea started to become synonymous with a mini-meal to sate the hunger between lunch and dinner, created by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. It became popular with the upper class and women looking to climb the social ladder.
‘Tea reception’ was given the seal of approval by Queen Victoria and became an exceedingly popular pastime. These receptions could be attended by up to 200 people.
Today however, it is a still a popular indulgence to be enjoyed for a special occasion such as at Sheriff Lodge – where a homemade tea can be enjoyed for two or one and accompanied by Prosecco. Having been a wedding cake decorator more many years I still love getting all my tools out and my creative hat on.
What is served for a traditional Afternoon Tea?
Traditionally, a modern day Afternoon Tea is a full meal, comprising of finger sandwiches followed by scones with clotted cream and jam, and then small pastries and cakes or patisseries and only the finest teas; these ought to have been grown in India or Ceylon and served from delicate tea pots and tea cups. The inclusion of scones in the ritual only took place in the 20th Century.
In what order are you served courses for Afternoon Tea?
At Sheriff Lodge although the tradition has evolved and continues to do so, hot velouté is served with the stand heavily piled with your indulgence. The traditional order is sandwiches, followed by the scones and clotted cream with jam, followed by the sweet things.
Of course, the partaking of tea should be taken throughout the ritual in sips, never gulps and the food eaten with care, attendance, and elegance, according to the Grand Royal London Hyde Park.
How long can you expect Afternoon Tea to last?
Should you be tempted to indulge in the Afternoon Tea at Sheriff Lodge – or anywhere else for that matter – then you might expect the experience to last at least an hour and a half. At Sheriff Lodge the tea can be ordered to be served any time between 3pm and 6:30pm. In fact, most guests have requested later teas in order to come back after a day out and not have to venture out again. There is plenty of time to enjoy your homemade tea in the comfort of the Drawing Room, accompanied by classical music and the scent of freshly picked flowers and served on family heirloom china.