It is our good fortune that in the early 19th century, the seventh duchess of Bedford took to having tea and a snack in the afternoon, between her two accustomed meals of breakfast and dinner. At first, hers was a private meal. Then at her invitation, friends joined the duchess for these light refreshments followed by a leisurely walk outdoors. Everyone enjoyed the tea and the company, and afternoon tea soon became the fashion of London society.
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A Royal Garden Party
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain hosts three annual garden parties in the private gardens of Buckingham Palace for guests from all walks of life. The royal garden party is a tradition dating back to 1860 during the reign of Queen Victoria. A total of about 24,000 guests attend the garden parties, so the menu is understandably extensive. According to Buckingham Palace, each garden party serves up about 20,000 tea sandwiches, 9,000 fruit tartlets, 9,000 butter drop scones, 8,000 slices of chocolate/lemon cake, 3,500 slices of chocolate/jam Swiss roll and 27,000 cups of Maison Lyons tea, an exclusive Twinnings blend created especially for the Queen's garden parties. The aforementioned items are just some of the refreshments, which are set out buffet style. Why not host your own royal garden tea party, with your best china and silverware and a tea menu inspired by the queen's? You could print special invitations, as the queen does. But unlike the queen, you will already know your guests personally. For an added touch of grand style, follow the royal dress code for garden parties. For gentlemen, it is morning dress suit, and, for ladies, afternoon dress, usually with a hat and gloves. Be certain to arrange photographs of an event to remember.
Afternoon Tea on the Orient Express
Fans of Agatha Christie know that the author travelled frequently aboard the Orient Express. In her book, "Murder on the Orient Express," the fastidious Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, solves a murder aboard the luxury train. Afternoon tea with champagne is featured on a seven-hour day excursion from London. Each British Pullman train carriage is a lavish 1920s or 1930s art deco original with inlaid mosaic floors, deeply upholstered armchairs and elegant crystal. The excursion begins with a champagne-and-wine lunch. The train stops briefly in Kent. Returning to London, there is traditional afternoon tea with champagne. If you invite Monsieur Poirot to tea, replicate Orient Express standards with crisp white linens, fine china and silverware. Add an art deco vase with the pink roses named after him. For tea, serve the finest Belgian biscuits, Belgian chocolates and his preferred drink, tisane.
Silver Service Tea
An elegant setting is central to a successful tea party. No detail should be spared to create an exquisite table, starting with starched white linens and fresh flowers. Add your best china and cutlery and hand-inscribed name cards for the ideal seating arrangement. The piece de resistance is a silver service. It usually includes a teapot, a coffee pot, a sugar bowl, a creamer and, sometimes, a tea kettle, on a silver tray. If you own a silver service, use it and enjoy it, even if that means more frequent polishing, because nothing compares to tea poured from a silver teapot. Serve the tea sandwiches, cakes and pastries on silver or crystal dishes. A fancy tea setting suits so many special events, from birthdays and anniversaries to newborns and new homes. A silver service tea party is the ultimate celebration.
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