Afternoon Tea Origin, tradition, how it came to America and its importance in hospitality

Tea, whether for relaxation, as a stimulant, to combat a disease or simply for the pleasure of gathering friendships, has always been present in many of the stages of man's development, throughout history, and in various societies. From China and England to the unknown America, in each civilization it has had an important role.

But what is tea? Strictly speaking, when referring to this drink, we are talking about leaves of a plant of the Camellia family infected in water at a perfect boiling point, of which there are five types, White, Green, Oolong, Black and Pu’erh, but we could not talk about this exquisite drink without first knowing its history. Let's go back 4,700 years ago, legend has it that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, a wise and learned man, ordered the boiling of the water used in the temple during his empire for hygiene reasons; one afternoon, while he was lying in one of his majestic gardens, some leaves from one of the trees (tea tree, Camellia sinensis) he fell into the water his servants boiled. The Emperor was able to notice a peculiar and charming aroma that began to give off that boiling liquid, he could not resist and from that moment he was ecstatic with the preparation.

In the 16th century, from the mouth of the Christian missionaries and by the Portuguese and Dutch navigators, this product considered luxurious and appreciated for its properties was unveiled. In 1662, when she married the British King Carlos II, the Portuguese princess, Catalina de Braganza, included a tea chest in her dowry, and that was how tea became a symbol of sophistication among the British aristocracy.

In the rest of Europe, the tea trade spread rapidly from the Netherlands to Italy, France and Germany. As for Russia, it had a different arrival, since it was exported directly from China through the Silk Road, along with porcelain.

In 1650, the tea was taken by the Dutch to New Amsterdam (Manhattan Island), in order to introduce the inhabitants to the consumption of this drink; they used to consume green tea enriched with many exotic spices. The consumption of this preparation became so popular and appreciated that society started with the custom of Tea Parties.

There are countless topics related to this drink, we will now focus on its importance within the prestigious world of Hospitality.

The British tradition of High Tea It has its beginnings in the mid 1700s, which was taken between three and four in the afternoon. Initially, their goal was to serve food for workers to consume standing or in high chairs. During this type of service, pastries, scones and even cheese-toasted bread were prepared. Little by little this tradition was transformed and it began to be considered an important social event, which ceased to be for people dedicated to work and began to be appreciated by high society.

The main purpose among the upper class was to provide a substantial meal before a play or card game.

The concept of Afternoon Tea was introduced to England by Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. Everyday, the Duchess had an appetite around four in the afternoon, but as was the custom in her Castle, dinner was served after eight, which left a time lapse very large between lunch and dinner. With the visit of Duke V of Rutland at Belvoir Castle, Anna Maria asked her servants to prepare a tray with tea, bread, butter and some cupcakes during the visit. Later she became a custom for her and began inviting friends to accompany her to taste these foods.

Currently Afternoon Tea is an exquisite experience, a service highly valued by diners and guests.

Some of the best hotels that offer this excellent London experience are: Claridges, Hotel Ritz London, The Savoy, Sketch, as well as Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, among others...

In Mexico, in November, we will offer a Master Class of Label and Protocol where we will address this British Tradition and, in addition, we will enjoy an exquisite tasting of a real British Afternoon Tea.

For more information, see the following link:


  • Ellis H., 2009, Tea: Discover, taste, enjoy. Barcelona, Spain. Editorial Ceac.
  • Fuentes Garcia M., 2012, Tea, Elixir of Life. Granada, Spain. MFG-Granada Tea

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