We all know that the British love their tea. But what makes the perfect British tea? Is it the setting, the china, the drinks or the food? I will teach you about all these factors on how to make English tea. 

coffee, espresso, milk, tea, cappuccino, cream, chocolate, hot chocolate
Julie Lau

What is the history of tea drinking in Britain?

Tea was first popularized in Britain in the 1660s by Charles II and his wife Catherine de Braganza. It was in the Victorian era, however, when afternoon tea became an institution. Anna Russel, Duchess of Bedford, was hungry one afternoon and decided to eat some cake with her tea. Her friends quickly caught on, and now the locals and tourists alike enjoy going out for afternoon tea.

What is the difference between high tea and afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea (AKA low tea) was a pastime for the upper classes. This is the tea that most Americans have in their minds with the dainty little finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream. It is traditionally eaten at 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

It was the middle and working classes that created high tea. Instead of being a mid-afternoon snack, high tea was a meal taken after work. It is much heartier than its upper class cousin, with a roast, meats and cheeses.

#SpoonTip: Don't try and make a reservation in England for "high tea" at 3 o'clock. It marks you as a tourist, and no one wants that.

coffee, tea
Kara Schiaparelli

What type of tea should be served?

Historically, tea grown in India or Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), would have been drunk. Now, however, every type of tea is being served. When I planned an afternoon tea I had Earl Grey, Matcha, English Breakfast and a Peach White Tea

Make sure you have some cream and sugar on the table for when your guests arrive.

#SpoonTip: Not sure what tea to serve? Use this handy guide to tea.

What type of food should be served?

At every standard afternoon tea I've been to there has been a variety of sandwiches and sweets. I would definitely recommend making a couple of sandwiches (with one of them being vegetarian) and a few sweet treats.

My personal favorites are lemon and cranberry scones, curry "chicken" salad and macarons.

sweet, chocolate, tea, cake, cream, coffee, candy
Kara Schiaparelli

What is the proper etiquette? 

While popular culture says to raise your pinkie at tea, NEVER do this. This is another thing that will mark you as a pretentious tourist. Be sure to place your napkin neatly in your lap, never spill your tea nor eat quickly.

Where should I go to tea?

There a few places across the world that are famous for their afternoon tea. In London there is Sketch (pictured below) and The Ritz. On the other side of the pond there is Tea and Sympathy in New York City, the Taj Hotel in Boston and the T Room in Los Angeles. 

Savanna Kiefer

There you have it, my best tips on how to make English tea perfect for the Royal Family. Afternoon tea is one of the great joys of life and I hope you enjoy experiencing your own.