Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition that has become a popular activity all over the world. It is an opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and indulge in a little luxury. In this blog, we will explore the history of afternoon tea and how it has evolved into the popular activity it is today.

History of Afternoon Tea

Ladies in the Victorian era enjoying a traditional tea

The history of afternoon tea can be traced back to the 1800s in Britain, during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was a time when the upper classes had three main meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, dinner was typically served late in the evening, leaving a long gap between lunch and dinner. It was during this time that the Duchess of Bedford, a close friend of Queen Victoria, introduced the concept of afternoon tea to fill this gap.

The Duchess would have a small meal of tea and cakes in the afternoon to satisfy her hunger until dinner. This became a regular habit, and she began inviting friends to join her. The trend caught on, and soon it became a popular social activity among the upper classes.

Types of Afternoon Tea

Today, it has evolved into a luxurious experience that is enjoyed all over the world. There are many types of teas available, each with its own unique theme and menu.


A three tiered cake stand displaying a selection of delicious cakes and scones at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Traditional afternoon tea is the most popular type and includes a variety of tea, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of cakes and pastries. It is typically served on a three-tiered cake stand, and the tea is usually a blend of black teas, such as Darjeeling, Earl Grey, or English Breakfast.


Champagne Tea at fortnum and Mason, London.

For those who want to add a touch of glamour to their tea experience, champagne afternoon tea is the perfect option. In addition to the traditional tea menu, a glass of champagne is served, adding a little extra sparkle to the experience.


Science Afternoon Tea at the Ampersand Hotel

Themed afternoon tea is a popular option for those who want to add a little fun to their tea experience. Themed teas can range from seasonal themes such as Christmas or Easter, to more unusual themes such as Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter. The menu and decorations are tailored to the theme, creating a unique and memorable experience.

What’s the Difference Between High Tea and Afternoon Tea

“High tea” and “afternoon tea” are two different types of tea services, each with their own unique traditions and customs.

Afternoon tea, also known as “low tea,” is a light meal typically served between 3 pm and 5 pm. It is a social occasion that involves serving tea, along with small sandwiches, scones, and pastries.

High tea, on the other hand, is a more substantial meal that is typically served between 5 pm and 7 pm. It is also referred to as “meat tea” because it includes more substantial dishes such as meat pies, casseroles, and vegetables. High tea was originally a working-class meal in Britain, served after a day of manual labor. The name “high tea” comes from the fact that it was served at a higher table than the low tea of the upper class.

The main differences between are the time of day they are served, the types of food served, and the cultural traditions and history associated with each service.

A Tradition that has Stood the Test of Time

Afternoon tea is a tradition that has stood the test of time and has evolved into a luxurious and popular activity enjoyed all over the world. Whether you opt for a traditional, champagne, or themed dining experience, it is the perfect way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and indulge in a little luxury. So, why not gather your friends and enjoy a relaxing afternoon of tea, sandwiches, scones, and cakes – you won’t be disappointed!

Find the Perfect Tea Experience for You

15% Discount

Offering a fantastic selection of afternoon tea experience across the UK, Virgin Experience Days has a great selection of teas from traditional to themed or why not team it with a fantastic day out.

We have a delicious 15% discount* off all their tea experiences. To generate your exclusive discount code, simply:

  • Select the Book Now button below
  • Copy the code from the pop-up window
  • Have a good old browse
  • When you see something you like, add to basket and pop -in the discount code where prompted at check-out.

*If something is already at it’s lowest price, there may be no further discount available. (But, there are plenty to be had)

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