Sunday, 25 July 2010

Afternoon Tea.

When I was a child (and yes, best beloved, it was a long, long time ago) meal-times were set in stone in our house, and I suspect in most houses in our village. You had your breakfast together, round the kitchen table, at around half past seven, before the men of the house went off to work; you had dinner at mid-day (none of your fancy lunch times in those days) and it would be a two or three course hot dinner; tea-time would be around five o'clock, or when the men came home from work. The meal would be what is called here in Yorkshire 'High Tea' and would be another substantial meal - and then there would be a supper at around bedtime.

Of course all this has changed now. Here in Yorkshire we tend to have breakfast, lunch and tea - and a drink at bedtime. Some of our friends eat their main meal in the evening, but really the farmer needs his substantial meal at lunch time - so that is our biggest meal of the day.

But the meal which seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth is 'afternoon tea'. And that is a shame because it is probably the most relaxed of all the meals and also one of the easiest to prepare.

So today we had friends for afternoon tea. If you are reading this N and S, then thank you for your company - we had a really enjoyable couple of hours with pleasant conversation and a nice relaxed afternoon (not all that summery, rather overcast and damp - well it would be, wouldn't it, as the farmer has more hay down.

I thought my readers, and particularly those in the US, would like to know what kind of things one serves for afternoon tea - so here is a photograph of the table - sorry about the fruit bowl, that is not part of the picture but I forgot to move it before I took the photograph!

We had Wensleydale fruit cake with Wensleydale cheese (both made locally), shortbread biscuits, raspberries and strawberries picked this morning from the garden and locally-made ice-cream. And of course as many cups of tea as we felt like drinking.

Tea is our staple drink here in the UK but we never get it properly made when we go abroad - sadly even in the U S we tend to get hot water and a couuple of tea bags. There is no substitute for freshly boiling water poured directly on to the tea bags (or loose tea) in the teapot, left to brew and then poured up. Sounds simple doesn't it? But sadly, in our experience, rarely does it come like that once we have left these shores.

What would you serve for afternoon tea? It would be nice to read about afternoon teas you have eaten.


Jane Moxey said...

Oh Pat! You've reminded me of my very little girl days, spent in Sheffield. High Tea was such such a big deal. I remember toasted pikelets, potted meat, fresh fruits, cakes (often a fruit cake), bread and butter and homemade jam, sometimes scones, and lashings of tea. I'm with you about not getting a good cuppa abroad. However, I treat myself to PG Tips tea bags -- a necessary luxury for me to get the right taste! No dainty cucumber sandwiches live in my memories of High Tea in Yorkshire! And I do stop at 4 in the afternoon for a cuppa, even after over 40 years of living in the States! I also remember the main meal being "middle day" and it was called dinner not lunch!

mrsnesbitt said...

Oh as a child we always had a tin of salmon in (red of course) incase company came! Jelly too with carnation milk. Nowadays hubby has his main meal around 7pm but when we are out on the motorbike we do like a cuppa with a scone with cream & Strawberry Jam. I must admit I get hooked on them and when I make my own now I use yoghurt! Wonderful!

(P.S.) Have updated my blog with current status of the broody hens!)

Unknown said...

Seems like I was just here reading of raspberry jam, Weaver, and now we've got a real spread! Jane and mrsnesbitt are speaking my language! We always called dinner "dinner", of course, which was hot either at school on weekdays or at home at the weekend. But we had a hot tea during the week once Dad was home from work. Sunday tea was very often a salad with red salmon. How well I remember tins of John West or Princes salmon and prawns plus, treat of treat, Chatka crab! The only way to make a salad! Pikelets I still love, though have them far too infrequently, and who could have jelly or tinned fruit without Carnation or Nestles extra thick cream!

Anonymous said...

We do still "do" afternoon tea here - and it is thin sandwiches - cucumber, egg and cress, that sort of thing. We also have cake, scones, and if company is arrived then rock buns and shortbread too.

..and proper leaf tea !

Unknown said...

Oh memories of tea time. I used to love it a cup of hot strong and perhaps too sweet using sugar lumps, tea. Watching my Aunt do the honors a good strong black tea from a wooden caddy(probably made by my Uncle). Crumpets, or maybe muffins home made of course or perhaps cheese scones and then a generous slice of madera cake, battenburg or some king sized eccles cakes all of course home made.

Jinksy said...

Somehow High Tea won't work as a solitary meal! But I enjoyed a share in your spread today, thanks Pat! :)

Pondside said...

Tea over here doesn't carry the same weight as it does in the UK, but it is still important and treated more seriously than in the US. Imagine my confusion, ordering tea, to be brought a glass of iced tea. I was informed that I'd need to specify 'hot' tea in order to get a bag in a cup.
We have tea here on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or when friends come over. Tea brewed in a cup? Never. It's brewed in a pot, served in a cup with sugar, lemon and milk on offer. Cookies, pound cake or whatever is baked goes with the tea, although muffins are reserved for coffee in mid morning. If it's a tea party, there will be sandwiches (egg, salmon, ham), pickles, perhaps little savory tarts or cheese shortbreads.
I like the sound of your local cheese and fruitcake!

Heather said...

Your afternoon tea table looks so lovely Pat, and we share the same taste in tableware. I love home made shortbread - home made anything really - and to take a break mid-afternoon for a cuppa and a piece of cake is very relaxing. Doubly pleasant if friends have dropped in.

Hildred said...

I come from an English home where all the niceties of Tea were observed, both in my grandmother's home and in my mother's.

Charles and I have tea every afternoon about 3.30, - and I never forget to 'hot the pot' before actually pouring the freshly boiled water on to the tea leaves. Part of the ritual!

ChrisJ said...

Your high tea looks and sounds delicious.Our meal schedule was the same as yours when I was a girl in Yorkshire but without the bedtime meal, (my parents were southerners). Then my father went into the hotel business and we started having lunch and dinner. But still no high tea. Over here in So. Cal. we still have lunch and dinner. Lunch is usually a sandwich or something very light. But now my husband and I have a cup of tea and cookies at 3:00p.m. or thereabouts. Yes, if you're in a restaurant you have to order HOT tea and I often send my hot water back to be made hotter. But I think there is a law about how hot a drink can be because of scalding and law suits! We are strangling ourselves with lawsuits!

Rachel Fox said...

When I was a teenager I used to be horrified by the sight of my Mum boiling up a kettle for tea anywhere she could when abroad (a French carpark in the rain lingers in the memory!). These days I wouldn't laugh...I'd have my cup at the ready!

Sandy said...

One of my most fond memories is visiting my best girlfriend during our high school years. She lived across the street with her English born mother and American father and little sis. Imagine my surprise the first time her mom made tea for me. Real English tea made the proper way with cream and sugar. I was in heaven and loved that tea. We didn't make tea that way in our house..and mostly only drank it when we were sick. That all changed for me sitting in their kitchen watching my friend's mom make that delicious tea. Sad to say, though, now I'm more likely to heat the water in the microwave and dip the teabag. Thanks for the post it was fun.

angryparsnip said...

What a lovely and tasty post.
Yes ! Tea in America is very different than where you live.
I wonder if you live a busy UK City life as opposed to a Farm life, do they eat a big meal at lunch and right before bedtime or even have time for a such a lovely Tea?
My family is Polish (we moved from Chicago, Illinois to the desert of Tucson, Arizona where I grew up) and my Mum always brewed Tea in a pot and when I came home from school (3:30) we would have a cup with maybe some fruit, bread if she had made some or a sweet.
We seemed to brew Asian, as we always drank our tea plain. I still do to this day.
I really miss afternoon Tea with my Mum.
Thank You for such a charming post today and such nice Sunday memories for me !
I am now very hungry !

cheers, parsnip

Gerry Snape said...

Well you can see how important food is in my blog, but you've put me in mind of supper at home in Belfast and the utter lack of understanding of my attempts at providing some when I was a teenager and a visitor came said "make some supper Gerry" and I provided a cup of tea and a slice of toast!!not the usual wheaten bread, scone, fruit cake and least!

Robin Mac said...

Lovely table setting Pat. Here in australia we had breakfast, lunch and dinner when I was growing up, with afternoon tea mid-afternoon. The tea had to be made in a freshly heated teapot of course. These days, I have succumbed to a teabag in a cup,but I still heat the dup first. We had table settings like yours when visitors came, but ate sandwiches (cucumber, asparagus, egg and lettuce spring to mind), biscuits (always homemade) and probably a sponge sandwich cake. My mother made the best sponge sandwich cakes ever. Relaxed afternoons like that don't happen nearly often enough these days, such a shame. I loved reading your nostalgic post. Cheers, Robin

George said...

Sadly, as an American, I have little to contribute to the elements of a proper afternoon tea. The key factor, I would think, is to thoroughly enjoy it, which I always have on my trips to England. The table you have prepared, Pat, looks very lovely and inviting.

Golden West said...

We don't do much in the way of a formal afternoon tea - the closest would be what we call a snack to tide us over. If the weather is cold, we have tea with cottage cheese and fruit - usually raspberries, but in season, peaches and blueberries and maybe a slice of lemon or cranberry bread, plain, no butter. If we're between trips to the fruit stand, quesadillas are quick and easy: corn tortillas with sharp cheddar and salsa heated just to melting and sliced into pie slices.

Helsie said...

In our part of Oz Afternoon Tea is a special occasion to be taken with friends usually around 3:00pm on Sundays. The spread is much the same as yours though we would never offer ice cream and fruit - that would be dessert at night time when we have tea ( or dinner-both words are used ). Cakes, scones, jam and cream perhaps small quiches are usually on the menu and are hopefully home-made.
We would offer both tea and coffee as Aussies usually drink both with coffee seeming to be gaining popularity especially with the younger set. I think most households have swung toward teabags these days but for a special occasion "real" tea may make an appearance.

Leenie said...

I just want some of that Wensleydale fruit cake and cheese. Your photo looks VERY inviting!

Gigi Ann said...

Your teatime looks very inviting. I enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon, I have never experienced an English cup of tea, so only know what I drink here in USA.

We do have tearooms where my friends and I sometimes visit. It is fun and exciting to try different kinds of teas. I will have to post my pictures of one of our tea parties some day. We got together and visited a tea room in April. What fun we had. Your post today brought back many fun memories.

Rachel Phillips said...

We have afternoon tea in Norfolk at weekends and during the week my husband has his in a flask and his cake in his tin for the afternoon. We pour it out not up down here.

Erratic Thoughts said...

Ohh I am a complete tea lover.
As a kid I usually had(still have) cereal or cornflakes(yes even for an afternoon tea!)
Fruit cakes go wonderfully with it,but my calorie count doesn't allow me to it them frequently *sigh*
I sometimes have cut peaches with soy sauce(it tastes good,trust me)

Nice read :)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you all enjoyed the tea party. Wouldn't it be nice if you could all pop in for a share of that cake and cheese. It is traditional here in Yorkshire to have cake or apple pie and cheese together - as the saying here goes:- apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Your tea table looks most inviting. I thoroughly understand the reasoning behind having this additional meal. Seems like the right time of day as that is often when the energy wanes. In fall, winter,spring, I make myself a cup of tea - water boiled in my teapot and I tend to be a creature of habit - Earl Grey. Always seemed to give me the lift to get through the rest of the day with kids. And the energy to make supper.

Caroline Gill said...

'Tea' aka afternoon tea is still one of the highlights of my day. Always Earl Grey tea - preferably a pinch of 10 leaves infused with boiling water. A pot will do, but I prefer my tea in a favourite mug. A slice of lemon on high days and holidays.

I'll pass on the sandwiches, please!

We used to have WONDERFUL fresh drop scones, potato scones - and waffles straight from the waffle iron as a treat ... and occasionally slices of choc. biscuit cake/tiffin.

I have a dreadful sweet tooth - choc. cake is my favourite!

These days it's tea and a single slice of cake or a choc. biscuit - unless I'm out and about, in which case a shortbread finger served with fresh strawberries [very Provencal] is DELICIOUS!

... and I tell myself I try so hard not to be tempted by these sweet things!!

Masia Mum said...

Spotted your Tea Party picture and had to comment.

Way back when I got married we had an afternoon tea dance as our reception bucking the trend for a grand evening "do". It combined my two favourites - afternoon tea and dancing.

My lovely Mother taught me all I know about serving the perfect afternoon tea. Proper china crockery, pastry forks and napkins. Sandwiches made from thin sliced bread with, of course, the crusts cut off. Two [at least] favourite cakes, scones with clotted cream and jam, possible also some baby danish pastries. The tea must be made in a tea pot, milk must be poured into the cups first - it is a real ritual.

I have added my own touches to the sandwiches [fillings of cucumber, egg and smoked salmon] by cutting them into different shapes for each filling - circles, squares, rectangles.

I have initiated my children and grandchildren into the delights of Afternoon Tea. Number 1 Grandson always requests his favourite chocolate cake, Number 2 Grandson consumes an amazing amount of scones, Number 1 Grandaughter is campaigning for ice cream to be added and Number 2 Grandaughter thinks the addition of chocolate Mini Rolls [her very very fav. treat] would make it perfect.

I have to stop now as I am feeling rather hungry.

Jeannette StG said...

Most of my friends have many cross-cultural experiences, so the ones who are from the UK have also lived in the US, so they adjusted their tea (to colored water, LOL), and didn't do the cakes or sandwiches in the afternoon. But as a dessert after the evening meal, we had tea, and cake, scones or cookies, etc.
One of my American friends turned me on to scones -I love scones, but they may be an American version! (it tastes more like a biscuit).