There is almost nothing more British than tea. As a nation we drink approximately 165 million cups of the stuff each and every day. Itís an institution which cuts through class, sex, status and wealth.
Tea first became popular in the UK during the 17th century. It was first sold in coffee houses, ironically, but by 1750 it was the favoured beverage of the working classes.
By the mid-19th century, tea shops began popping up all over Britain Ė not least because unchaperoned women could meet there without doing damage to their reputations. In private houses Afternoon Tea became a meal in itself for fashionable ladies in which sandwiches and cake was served with the tea itself.
Afternoon Tea is still served across the land, always with delicious scones, sandwiches and cakes to accompany it (although anything goes Ė in some hotels in London you can have a gin-themed afternoon tea).
This scone recipe by Baker Tom is a good one: the scones arenít too vast but they are certainly not flat! You can add raisins as you please (or not at all). There is much debate on whether you put the jam or cream on first. Well, hereís the answer. If youíre from Cornwall Ė itís jam first. If youíre from Devon, itís cream first. If you are from neither, then do as you please!
For cakes, you canít go wrong with a Victoria sponge, named after Queen Victoria, who was partial to a slice or two of this delicate sweet treat to accompany her tea. This is a no-frills version from Olive magazine, who rightly point out that once you master the basics you can jazz it up with flavoursome variations.
And sandwiches? Cucumber all the way. Cucumber slices should be thin, butter thickly spread (to stop the moisture from the cucumber making the bread soggy) and crusts off, always. These dainty morsels have traditionally been eaten on hot summer days as a way of keeping cool. The perfect picnic accompaniment for this weekends spring heatwave.
Now, milk? Sugar?