The Invention of Afternoon Tea

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford

Something often taken for granted is meal times. We are so used to having three meals a day that it can be hard to think of a time when this was not the case. Breakfast, lunch and dinner had been established in the 18th century to fit in with the working day, however lunch was usually eaten at 12 noon with dinner not until the fashionable time of 8pm, sometimes even later. This caused a long and hungry gap throughout the afternoon. For Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford and a lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, the wait for dinner was all too much. After a visit to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle in 1840, Anna took tea in the afternoon. She favoured accompanying the tea with sandwiches and cakes. In more recent times, scones with cream and jam have become the main part. This trend took off and became very popular in polite society, and has not gone out of fashion, even to present day.

fresh fruit scones
Scones, a very popular part of afternoon tea.
Victorian Tea Gallery - The Victorian Era--Victorian Days ...
Victorian ladies, having afternoon tea, c. 1890

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