5 Steps to Having Tea Like the Duchess of Bedford Did

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.

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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

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6 Comments

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  1. I like having some tea in the afternoon, but it is usually not that fancy! I have held some afternoon tea parties that were pretty fancy though.

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    • My tea parties are pretty simple affairs, too, just me, tea, and a plate of scones! Hee! No, seriously, I like to keep ’em pretty straightforward. People are more comfortable that way. And they can slurp if they want!

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  2. I love this! I have yet to try Darjeeling tea (which would you recommend?), but when I finally do, I am going to take these into account. Don’t worry, I’ll invite you to my Buckingham Palace tea extravaganza 🙂

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    • Try several Darjeelings and see what suits you, Nicole. The First Flush versions will be available in March or April. Arya, Giddapahar, and Jungpana are 3 of the Darjeeling gardens I like (there are 87 or so in total). Castleton is also good. The First Flush is fairly light in flavor and highly prized. Second Flush is more fruity (that Muscatel grape quality). And Autumn Flush is even richer and can often be steeped long enough to add milk if you are so inclined. A good vendor is JAS-eTea.com. Another is Thunderbolt Tea. And then there in Lochan Tea, Ltd. And no corsets!!

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