Tea and cakes will never go out of fashion. You may or may not know that one of the hottest trends for children’s birthday parties is an old fashioned children’s afternoon tea complete with bone china and doilies.
Let’s reinvent tea and cakes in the afternoon
It’s funny that something we all took for granted was in danger of disappearing. Afternoon tea is and has always been a very special meal. At Good Food Doncaster we really love the rituals that go with afternoon tea. After all, Henry James once said:
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
So how did afternoon tea and cakes begin? You might think its pedigree is very long but in fact it only dates back to around 1840 in Britain. It was conceived by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna who basically couldn’t wait for dinner. It’s not surprising as dinner was normally served at 8pm. Initially she would have tea and slices of bread and butter brought up to her room but eventually invited her pals to join her. So actually it started very informally but now seems very posh indeed. However, at the time it did become a real social event where manners were everything.
Talk to the experts on bone china and tea time
In a bid to find out what tea and cakes in Doncaster are served on we chatted to V & A Antiques of Doncaster about High Tea conventions. They recently featured on BBC’s Antiques Roadtrip and are perfectly placed to talk tea sets, teapots and afternoon teas.
We asked Victoria what was on trend right now.
‘Anything with pink and green bone china appears to be the “in” colour right now.’
I asked Victoria what a High Tea table should look like.
‘Well the tea table should look very full. If you are thinking of setting up High Tea you need your trio first. That is a tea cup and saucer and tea plate. These are very dainty.
Then you would have milk jugs and sugar bowls. Usually you would be using sugar lumps that would be dispensed with tongs. Then you will need your sandwich stand and cake stands. Some people might prefer a flat cake plate and also a cake server. In addition there will be an array of tea and coffee pots, dainty teaspoons and cake forks. All of these items would sit on top of a beautifully starched piece of vintage linen. These vintage tablecloths were often carefully embroidered with very delicate patterns and really set off the whole look. Of course a High Tea table would not be complete without napkins. There is no place for paper napkins when you are sitting down for Afternoon tea and cakes.
Tea bags and loose leaf tea which is it to be?
I wondered whether we should be using loose leaf tea or are tea bags allowed. Victoria suggested that personal preference might dictate. However, V & A Antiques sells a lot of things to Vietnam and their High Tea table will always be furnished with a central decoration of silver. They are very keen on candelabras and vintage lace. They also make use of leaf tea only so there will always be a very beautiful tea strainer to hand. We always make sure we provide a tray for used tea bags but I guess the loose leaf is more stylish and special.
Can you rent a tea service for afternoon tea and cakes?
I asked Victoria if people could rent some of the bone china tea services she has in the shop.
‘Oh yes, we do a lot for special occasions and even boho weddings. As there is so much demand we have created a special Tea Party Package where people can rent enough crockery for 10 people. The rental charge is £40. If people need more we then charge £25 for the next 10 or £2.50 nper person. People love it and we find that generally high tea colours are pink, roses or Royal Albert designs. Certainly there is a lot of gold in evidence and it really does make the tea taste better.’
As keen visitors to V & A Antiques we do recommend a trip to see what an incredible selection awaits you.
On the other hand if you don’t fancy going to all the trouble of setting out high tea for yourself there are a number of lovely places in Doncaster. We highly recommend the Mansion Tea Rooms, The Glass Strawberry, The Georgian Tea Rooms and Woods Tea Rooms. Another wonderful place for Afternoon Tea is The Victorian Tea Rooms at Woodfield Park, Balby. As we write this is undergoing a total renovation and will be open again some time in April.
So where is your favourite spot to have afternoon tea and Cakes in Doncaster? Do let us have your thoughts about if you still like it as a meal and whether you think it might be a tradition that needs resurrecting in your home? If you fancy preparing a High Tea try these suggestions from BBC Good Food.