There are few culinary customs more quintessentially British than afternoon tea. Typically consisting of a selection of bite-sized savoury sandwiches, scones, sweets, and bottomless brews (of the leafy variety…as opposed to pints), this gastronomic indulgence dates back nearly 200 years.
In the 1840s, the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, got tired of waiting–on her evening meal, that is. To assuage the “sinking feeling” she often got around 5 PM, the Duchess requested some tea, bread, butter, and cake. “What a terrible idea” said no one ever, and thus, the tradition was born.
There have been many clever 21st Century takes on this historic repast, from fashionis-teas to fur-tea-ve dalliances with felines. One especially apt incarnation, given the rise of the U.K.’s first prime minister of Indian descent, Rishi Sunak, is afternoon tea at Colonel Saab.
Many folks have traditionally aspired to retire in their 60s, an accomplishment which, back in the day, may have been rewarded with a gold watch and a multi-martini steak dinner. So how does one fete a woman who has held the same position for seven decades and is still going strong at nigh on 96? With fireworks, parades, and perhaps the odd joust; in short, with all the pomp and pageantry of a Platinum Jubilee, if the lady in question happens to be Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Click here for my story in AARP magazine, with top tips for visitors who want to join the party as the UK rolls out the red carpet for well-wishers from around the world.
From “Prêt-à-Portea” repasts offering catwalk-worthy cakes to, well, cakes with cats, London is reinventing this traditional culinary indulgence. Here’s a taste of what’s brewing around the city.