Afternoon Tea: The American Twist on a British Classic

Tea and salmon and cream cheese sandwiches with slices of cucumber on top means Afternoon Tea in the old country.

There’s something timeless about the tradition of afternoon tea. Originating in England, this practice has found its way to US tables, evolving while retaining its core essence. What began as an English custom has now been embraced, adapted, and reimagined across the Atlantic. In this exploration, we’ll delve into the journey of “Afternoon Tea: The American Twist on a British Classic,” understanding its origins, nuances, and how it’s enjoyed today everywhere.

Sipping on History: England’s Afternoon Tea in the US

The afternoon tea tradition began with Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. During the 1840s, she often felt hungry between meals, leading her to request a tray of tea, bread, and cake. This simple act blossomed into a social event among the English aristocracy. As English settlers traveled to the US, they brought along this tea tradition. Cities like Burbank now have tea rooms that echo the ambiance of English parlors, providing a historical touch with every sip.

From Duchess of Bedford to US Tables: The Afternoon Tea Journey

The journey from English aristocracy to American tables showcases the adaptability of customs. In England, afternoon tea usually consists of tea served with a selection of sandwiches (often cucumber), scones with clotted cream and jam, and a variety of pastries. In the US, while the core elements remain, there’s a broader range of offerings, including diverse tea varieties and local pastries, reflecting America’s melting pot culture.

Afternoon Tea Etiquette: English Rituals in American Settings

While in England, afternoon tea has specific rituals, from the manner of pouring tea to the sequence of eating snacks; the US adaptation is a bit more relaxed. However, some etiquette remains universal: never slurp tea, always use tongs for sugar cubes, and place your napkin on your lap. It’s a blend of formality and leisure, ensuring the experience remains both authentic and enjoyable.

The US Embraces Scones & Sandwiches: England’s Afternoon Tea Legacy

Scones and sandwiches are integral to afternoon tea. In the US, these staples have been embraced with enthusiasm and a touch of innovation. Where English scones might be plain or with currants, American versions range from cranberry to chocolate chip. The sandwiches, too, witness variations from the traditional cucumber to offerings like avocado or turkey, demonstrating the seamless melding of English tradition and American creativity.

Queen Elizabeth to New York: Afternoon Tea’s Global Footprint

Afternoon tea isn’t limited to Burbank or even just the US—it’s a global phenomenon. From the sophisticated tea rooms of London, where Queen Elizabeth herself indulges, to the bustling streets of New York, where tourists and locals alike partake in this ritual, its appeal is universal. Its adaptability to local tastes while retaining its core essence is a testament to its timeless charm.

Darjeeling to Earl Grey: US Dive into England’s Tea Traditions

Tea selection is pivotal to the afternoon tea experience. While the English have their favorites, like the robust Assam or delicate Darjeeling, the US has embraced these and expanded the roster. Flavors like chai, green tea, and herbal infusions are now as much a part of the American tea ritual, offering a broad spectrum of choices to enthusiasts.

High Tea vs. Low Tea: Decoding English Traditions in the US

Contrary to popular belief, ‘high tea’ and ‘afternoon tea’ are not interchangeable. High tea, a more substantial meal in England, is often confused with the lighter, more delicate afternoon tea. In the US, the distinction might blur, but understanding these nuances adds depth to one’s appreciation of the ritual.

British Tea Rituals: How America Is Brewing Its Own Version

America, with its knack for innovation, brews its own version of the British tea ritual. While the essence remains, nuances in tea selection, food pairing, and even presentation reflect American influences. Whether it’s the use of local ingredients or integrating diverse culinary traditions, the US afternoon tea is a delightful blend of the old and the new.

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