Afternoon tea first became a popular custom in the 1840s and 1850s amongst the wealthy upper- and middle-classes who spent much of their days hosting and socialising. In these richer households, dinner was served 'fashionably late' and lunch was eaten around midday leaving a long stretch between meals. So, what was a hungry person to do? Indulge in sandwiches and cakes, of course!
But like many of the best things in life, afternoon tea varies hugely and can consist of whatever you want it to -- from a slice of Victoria sponge and a pot of tea, to towering cake stands packed with miniature bakes and delicate creations.
In honour of British Afternoon Tea Week (14 - 20 August), why not try hosting your own tea party for your loved ones in a nod to traditional British tea culture? We've got plenty of recipes to incorporate into your civilised spread. Check out some of our favourites below.
The staple centrepiece to any afternoon tea, learning how to make a proper sandwich cake is a right-of-passage in British culture. No sort of cake-and-tea soirée would be complete without one. Fact.
Supposedly dating back to the 11th century, when households would tuck into tea and bread with cream and jam as a midday meal, a "cream tea" often forms the foundations of many afternoon tea treats.
A fresh scone topped with clotted cream and jam (or jam then clotted cream…) is truly delicious and surprisingly easy to whip up at home from scratch. First time baking scones? Check out our ultimate list of tips and tricks for perfect scones every time here.
First created for the 1884 wedding of Prince Louis of Battenberg to Queen Victoria's granddaughter, also called Victoria, this checkerboard cake wrapped in marzipan has been a part of Fortnum and Mason's signature afternoon tea selection since 1926.
This impressive multi-coloured bake may look almost impossible to accomplish at home, but it's surprisingly simple. With a rectangular traybake tin, some baking paper and a little creativity, you can make this beautiful blushing bake at home in just an hour and a half.
Although these almond-based meringues are technically Italian, these delicate pastel-coloured sweets make the perfect dainty addition to an afternoon tea spread.
Not to be confused with their coconut-based cousin, the macaroon, these meringue-style bakes sandwiched with lighter-than-light buttercream are ultimate refined-dining affair. Check out our recipe here, or, if you're short on time, our Extra Special Macaron Collection can be stashed in the freezer then defrosted whenever you're in need of a dainty dessert in a flash.
Mediterranean tomato tarts
Amongst all those sweets, it's a good idea to have some miniature savouries. Finger sandwiches are a classic option (think cream cheese and cucumber, or honey roast ham) - but we also love tucking into a miniature savoury tartlet as the tea's being poured.
These heart-shaped tomato tarts will look beautiful on your tiered cake stand. What's more, there's also packed with punchy sun-dried tomatoes and crumbled goat's cheese for a hit of delicious Mediterranean flavour. Cut out and fill the tarts ahead of time, then store them in the fridge until you're ready to bake at the last minute for a welcome warm addition to your civilised spread.
Want to keep things traditional? These mini quiches couldn't be simpler: cut out your pastry cases, throw in the fillings then pour over the beaten egg and cream mixture and bake.
Have our classic cakes and miniature bakes felt you feeling inspired to whip up your own afternoon tea this week? Make sure you stock up on all the ingredients you need at Asda or pop into your local store.