The legend of how Afternoon Tea became a tradition in Britain has come under question by some tea experts. I don’t care. It’s a great story, a great tea tradition, and worth emulating. But how to go about having tea like Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, during her brief (4 years) as a Lady of the Bedchamber for Queen Victoria? I have five key steps you should do, although admittedly some will be a bit tricky to carry out.
Step 1: Location
First of all, secure yourself a position as Lady of the Bedchamber for Queen Elizabeth II so you will then have private chambers at Buckingham Palace. It’s easier than you’d think. Just mail your resume to me with a $1 bill … chuckle! Actually, just be sure you have a nice location for your tea time. Any cozy spot will do.
Step 2: Attire
Ladies, get those corsets with their rib torturing stays out of storage, shake out those gowns to go over those corsets, and gather up all the trimmings to go with that Victorian era outfit worn by Anna, the duchess. Hold it… wait… no way will I endure such torturous attire even for tea! Just wear something nice, comfortable, and expandable (as in “Geez, why did I insist on eating that last scone?”).
Step 3: Foods
The Duchess found cakes and little sandwiches (like these) to be quite perfect for a repast that was meant to satisfy her until that fashionably late dinner at 8:00 pm or later. They would be filling but not too filling, and that touch of sweet with a dash of fat would make their tummies happy until that evening feast.
Step 4: Tea
In Anna’s day, the tea was usually a blend from Darjeeling, India. That tea is still a favorite of many British, but there is a wide array of additional teas to choose from these days, so you could serve whatever you want. It depends on how authentic you want this event to be.
Step 5: Company
Anna’s Afternoon Teas are said to have become the “talk of the palace.” After all, she wasn’t the only one starving at that hour of the day. Word gets around fast in the royal grapevine. If you don’t have that available to you, do the next best thing: post an invite on Facebook! Uh, well, maybe best not or the whole world might show up at your door. Email, text messages, phone calls, or even an old-fashioned mailed invitation are better (and less risky) options.
Here’s hoping your Bedford style Afternoon Tea goes well.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text