Afternoon Tea: A very British tradition

With the start of Wimbledon, the world-famous Henley Regatta, and Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, the first week of July is traditionally one that is dedicated to all things British. And what could be more quintessentially British than afternoon tea? Here we look back at the history of this glorious tradition and its appearance at summer events in good old Blighty.


A very brief history of afternoon tea…

The history of tea in England begins in the mid-17th Century, when the East India Company introduced it from China. Originally an expensive import for the aristocracy only, tea drinking gained popularity in the royal court of Charles II, thanks to the king’s wife, the Portuguese Catherine de Braganza.

Throughout the 18th century, London coffee houses made tea drinking popular, and by the mid 1700’s it had become the drink of choice of the lower classes.

The tradition of afternoon tea was started in Woburn, Bedfordshire, by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. Having complained of a sinking feeling in the late afternoon, between luncheon and an increasingly late dinner, Anna frequently had a tray of tea, bread, butter and cake brought to her room. She would later invite others to join her, and as more and more ladies got in on the act, so the first widespread afternoon teas were enjoyed.

By the end of the 19th Century, tea rooms had become ‘the’ place to meet friends, a tradition which is still enjoyed today.


Afternoon tea at Wimbledon

Although best known for their strawberries & cream and Pimm’s, the component parts of an afternoon tea are also favourites at the Wimbledon Championships. Over the two weeks of the tournament, 110,225 scones will be consumed, 72,412 sandwiches and baguettes will be enjoyed, and 2,198 afternoon tea hampers ordered.

21,917 bottles of Champagne will also be quaffed.

To enjoy your own piece of Englishness in East Anglia, why not try our Celebration Afternoon Tea? With a glass of Champagne, finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with cream and strawberry jam, and a choice of sweet treats, it’s a taste of England on a platter.


Rowers at Henley Royal Regatta
rowfotos [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Picnics at Henley Royal Regatta

Held annually since 1839, Henley Royal Regatta is a key fixture in the English social season. With over 200 international standard races, it’s one of the highlights of the summer sports season. Visitors to the event are treated to great sport, shopping, charming views and great food, including afternoon tea and champagne tea in the Luncheon Tent.

Another enjoyable option is to find a space on the bank upriver, set up a table or lay down a blanket and enjoy a picnic.

We may not have a Royal Regatta in Cambridge, but we do have waterways packed full of punts. Why not order one of our picnics, find a good spot on the banks of the Cam or in one of the lovely green parks and enjoy a scone, sandwiches, macaroons and cake?

We’ve also partnered with the Traditional Punting Company to offer our picnics to their customers.


Themed breakfasts at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Goodwood Festival of Speed is the largest motoring garden party in the world. Over 600 cars and bikes will take part in the event, which this year is themed as ‘Speed Kings – Motorsport’s Record Breakers’.

On long summer days it’s important to start with a hearty breakfast. Goodwood itself offers an Italian themed breakfast in homage to Lamborghini, including fresh juices, tea and coffee.

At Harriets, our breakfasts are well loved across East Anglia. Choose from our carefully selected speciality teas and coffees to accompany one of our traditional grills or breakfast classics and start your day off right.


Make Harriets Café Tearooms a fixture this summer

Whatever events you’re planning on partaking in this summer, make a trip to Harriets part of your day. From our breakfast classics to hot lunches and afternoon tea, we can enhance any day out in Cambridge, Norwich or Bury St Edmunds.

To book a table or order a buffet, please contact your nearest tearoom, or fill in our contact form.