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Is it just the British that love Afternoon Tea?

08 Aug 2022 by Sophie White

Read time: 8 mins


Did you know that Afternoon Tea became popular in the UK very quickly following its conception in 1840?

With dinner eaten late in the evenings at this time, Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, struggled with mid-afternoon hunger.

To satisfy her cravings, she requested a mid-afternoon snack.

This soon became a regular occurrence at around 4pm and turned into an occasion to catch up with her friends over tea and nibbles.

Not long later, afternoon tea evolved into a fashionable event for the upper classes.

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Nowadays, tea and afternoon tea have both become synonymous with British culture, with over 165 million cups being consumed here each day.

You’ll find a myriad of afternoon tea experiences including:

  • Afternoon teas served at luxury hotels across the country
  • Afternoon tea at home packages
  • Afternoon tea with a twist; themed and immersive experiences

Afternoon tea is now adored not only by Britons and by tourists in the UK, but in countries worldwide, though many countries have their own traditions for enjoying tea dating back centuries.


Let’s have a look at how other nations enjoy afternoon tea….


Tea rooms fuelled by prohibition – Afternoon Tea in the USA

Tea was first brought to America by Dutch settlers in the early 1600s, though wasn’t initially popular.

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Description automatically generated As Britain became a nation of tea drinkers, Americans favoured coffee, and with the Boston Tea Party in the late 18th century, those that were tea drinkers abstained from a brew to show their disapproval of the British.









The site of the Boston Tea Party photographed by Jennifer Boyer on flickr via Creative Commons.


Despite this, afternoon tea came to the US in the mid-1800s not long after its inception.

Instructions for how and when to serve afternoon tea were laid out in ‘The American System of Cookery” in 1847, though the event was still not commonplace at that time.

Afternoon tea grew in popularity amongst the upper class following the civil war.

By 1906, it was so popular with bankers that the Wall Street Journal published an article about the regularly occurring 4pm “Wall Street Tea Parties”.

Rural tea rooms began to pop up across America in the early 1900s and with the introduction of prohibition in 1920, tea rooms boomed as popular spots for meeting friends.

In the 1930s, tea dances became popular, where traditional afternoon teas, cakes and sandwiches were enjoyed alongside music and dancing.

Still a nation of coffee drinkers, afternoon tea is found almost exclusively in high-end hotels and restaurants across the states.

Did you know? 85% of tea drunk in the USA is cold.


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A cup of iced tea photographed by Barbara Webb.


Le Goûter - Afternoon Tea in France

Tea was first introduced to France in the 17th Century, before making its way across the channel to England.

Originally enjoyed for its medicinal properties, members of the nobility were told that the Chinese and Japanese did not suffer from heart problems or gout, tea soon became popular with high society and King Louis XIV himself.

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A bust of Louis XIV photographed by Mike via Creative Commons.


But after becoming a symbol of royalty itself, when monarchs began to be ousted in the late 1700s, so did tea.

Although it has since experienced a resurgence, the French afternoon tea Le Goûter is often enjoyed without the hot beverage.

Almost exclusively sweet, Le Goûter is usually taken around 4pm.

It is often seen as a social occasion; a meal in itself that provides an opportunity to catch up with friends before a late dinner.

Featuring sweet treats including macarons, crêpes, cakes and pastries, the meal can be enjoyed in fabulous tea houses, though is more commonly thought of as a childrens’ after school snack time.


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Macarons photographed by Dima Valkov.


Multiple occasions throughout the year are celebrated with Le Goûter, including 3 Kings Day and chandeleur (Candlemas).


Catching up over Masala Chai - Afternoon Tea in India

Despite being the second-largest producer of tea in the world, India is relatively new to the world of tea.

Following the creation of large-scale tea plantations during the British occupation, the nation has become a mass exporter of Darjeeling and Nilgiri amongst others.

Traditionally, Masala chai tea is the tea of choice; a spicy black tea with ginger, fennel, cardamom, and varying spice mixes depending on local and family recipes.

The tea is served with milk and sugar and found on most street corners being sold by chai wallahs (chai sellers).


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Chai Masala tea photographed by Charlotte May.


Although not afternoon tea in the traditional sense, people can enjoy a sip of tea at the stalls while socialising and catching up with neighbours.


Tea ceremonies - Afternoon Tea in China

Back in 2737 BC, Emperor Shen Nung was said to be sitting near a Camellia sinensis bush when some leaves fell into his boiling pot of water.

He took a sip and enjoyed the taste so much that he regularly consumed this and so began China’s journey to becoming a nation of tea drinkers.

Tea became the national drink during the Tang Dynasty from 618 to 906. The country has since become the largest producer of tea worldwide.

The tea ceremony is referred to as gongfu, ‘making tea with effort’ or Cha Dao, ‘the way of the tea.

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A Chinese tea set photographed by Anna & Michal via Creative Commons.


The occasion is enjoyed as a time of relaxation with the calmness of brewing and preparing a pot of tea bringing peace.

Though tea is not usually consumed with meals, an exception is made for Dim Sum which was enjoyed in tearooms in the latter part of the 19th century.


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Dim Sum dumplings photographed by Natalie.


Did you know? Herbal teas were created more than 400 years ago by the Royal Physicians of the Ming Dynasty.

They were instructed to create a concoction that had a pleasurable aroma, was attractive, provided pleasure in drinking and promoted good health.


A social affair – Afternoon Tea in Morocco

Moroccan mint tea, traditionally a blend of Chinese Green Tea and North African nana mint, has become an integral part of social gatherings in the country.

A showing of hospitality, tea is commonplace to welcome guests to your home as well as being found in most of the food and drink establishments.