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A history of afternoon tea at the Langham.

by Rajul on September 7, 2010

A beautiful old black and white photo of the Langham - a hotel whose history is inextricably linked with the tradition of afternoon tea

In July we noted how the refurbished Langham had taken the “Best London Hotel Afternoon Tea” award for 2010 from Brown’s in Mayfair – though Brown’s afternoon tea continues to be sumptuous in its own right.

A few people have asked about the origins of afternoon tea.  So we thought it might be fun to take a historic perspective on this quintessentially English experience and give you one version of the story.

Afternoon tea apparently dates back to 1865 with the 7th Duchess of Bedford (lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria).  She decided one afternoon that she was feeling a little peckish and so asked her servant to bring her all her tea-making items, together with some bread and butter.

This became a bit of a ritual and she soon got into the habit of inviting her best aristocratic friends over for a spot of “afternoon tea”.  The bread and butter soon evolved into intricate little plates of sandwiches, scones and cakes as well as other elaborate desserts.  And so the tradition was born!

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Afternoon tea at the Langham won the Tea Guild's prestigious award for 2010

We’ve reviewed the history of the Langham in another blog post.  It’s certainly interesting to note that afternoon tea has always been one of the hotel’s showpiece traditions since it was founded.

It is surely no coincidence either that the hotel opened in the same year that the Duchess enjoyed the first ever afternoon tea: 1865!

Today, the afternoon teas on offer at the Langham include “Wonderland”, “G and Tea Time” and “Bijoux” (with cakes shaped like jewels!).

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In the meantime, afternoon tea aficionados may also wish to look forward to an equally decadent experience in the new Savoy, set to become a new icon among luxury London hotels when it reopens in October.  Afternoon tea will be served in the brand-new glass-domed Thames Foyer.

And if you’d like to sample a more contemporary interpretation of afternoon tea, then the “sensory” tea from the Soho Hotel may also take your fancy.

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Photo credits: The Langham London (Langham Hotels International).

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November 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm

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