Afternoon Tea Week (August 13-19) is a celebration of one of the nation’s favourite traditions. We love the combination of savoury and sweet treats, accompanied by some of the 165 million cups of tea we drink each day in the UK. 

Not to be confused with High Tea, Afternoon Tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess often became hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon and was said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling”. 

It has gone on to become a much loved pastime and has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as hotels, pubs and restaurants capitalise on bringing in business in a traditionally quieter daypart. 

Similarly, other businesses, such as care homes and garden centres, are also getting in on the act and offering afternoon tea to their residents and customers. 

Marshall Kingston, Tetley senior brand manager – out of home, comments: “Afternoon Tea is a quintessential tradition that continues to evolve with operators offering eccentric twists to the classic high tea menu. It has been predicted that in the future tea sommeliers will play a huge part in the ceremony of afternoon tea, with consumers hungry for the theatre that comes with this British tea ritual. 

“For example, in hotels the sense of luxury is already instilled, with afternoon tea offering another way guests can treat themselves. Hotel guests are willing to spend more on a cup of tea, higher than any other channel at £2.33 and, with the right atmosphere and ambience, consumers are three times more likely to rate a brand as better value for money.” 

A spokesperson for Taylors of Harrogate added: “We’d always recommend an afternoon tea menu includes a strong black tea, such as our English Breakfast, and a range of fruit and herbal teas to satisfy those looking to try new flavours.” 

Vegetarian and vegan With a growing number of diners identifying as veggie or vegan, it’s important to offer an afternoon tea which caters for plant-based diets. London patisserie Cake Boy has launched a vegan afternoon tea with delights such as sunblush tomato and basil, gluten-free mini loaf with pistachio pesto, roasted pepper and extra virgin olive oil pearls, red velvet cake and French raspberry macarons. 

RAW restaurant in London offers an afternoon tea with finger sandwiches filled with scrambled tofu, mustard cress, portobello mushroom pate, cashew nut butter, lemon & thyme tahini. Sweet treats include warm homemade scones served with fresh strawberries and whipped coconut “cream”, a blend of coconut cream and powdered sugar. 

Make your offer ‘tea-menous’ 

Afternoon tea gives operators the opportunity to put their stamp on their offer – so be as creative as you like! 

Cater for kids The Palm Court at The Langham, in partnership with Hamleys, offers an afternoon tea for children with sandwiches which have been customised to create ‘Jigsaw Sandwiches’ in the form of a jigsaw puzzle shape for children to take apart. 

For the pastries, there’s a set of cakes that see the kids taking charge, assembling their own lemon meringue tart, putting the crunch into a strawberry yoghurt and deciding if they are Devon or Cornish scone-eaters in the great cream or jam first debate. 

Themed teas You can theme your afternoon tea to the season or a key calendar event. Sopwell House, for example offered a grand slam Wimbledon Afternoon Tea (above) to coincide with the famous tennis championship. It featured an array of British treats and sandwiches including Wimbledon themed cakes, Pimms & cucumber jelly, and strawberries and cream. 

Premium offer For the ultimate in decadence, Dominque Ansel bakery in London offers a ‘Splendid Tea’ option with specialty menu additions like butter-poached Canadian lobster rolls and Sevruga caviar with buckwheat blinis and crème fraîche.