What is served at a proper English tea?
The question ‘what is served at a proper English tea’ is quite valid and the first thing to establish is whether you’re referring to an English Cream Tea OR British Afternoon Tea. They’re slightly different offerings, though both are wonderful traditions that have been enjoyed here for eons.
English Cream Tea is a treat comprising scones, thick clotted cream, jam - plus a cup of tea.
The scones are split into two and become the ‘vehicle’ for loading your clotted cream and jam on top! Delicious. English cream tea is a fairly inexpensive delight to order in cafes, tearooms, pubs and hotels all over the UK (including Wales, Scotland and Ireland!). Ladies might stop for a cream tea with a friend whilst they are out shopping. It’s considered a treat and it restores the energy ready to continue with the busy day!
However, Afternoon Tea is more substantial than a Cream Tea. Afternoon Tea starts with a series of savoury items. At the least this would be Sandwiches, daintily presented, often with the crusts cut off. Other savouries might be offered too, such as Welsh Rarebit (warm Cheese on Toast) or Scotch Egg or warm scrambled eggs on toast/muffins. The savouries are enjoyed as finger food or with cutlery - before the sweet food is offered.
The sweet treats comprise an array of cakes or biscuits, meringues or macarons - little patisserie goodies like that…and of course, scones, with clotted cream and jam. This is all enjoyed with copious cups of tea - usually English Breakfast or Earl Grey.
Afternoon Tea is associated with the great London hotels such as The Ritz or The Savoy. Ladies often celebrate special birthdays like a 50th or 60th, by a trip to these hotels with friends for afternoon tea. You would normally dress elegantly and enjoy the whole experience, which may take up to 2 hours. It’s very special. Even Nelson Mandela described British Afternoon Tea as our greatest export!