No one does pomp and circumstance quite like the English. A classic example of that is afternoon tea, or, high tea. I mean, who else could take something as seemingly simple as tea and turn it into a posh social gathering that has basically become its own entity? But, high tea hasn’t always been the elegant affair it is today. In fact, the beginnings of high tea, occurrring around the 1840’s, are quite humble. Simply put, Queen Victoria’s lady in waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, grew rather peckish between the time lunch was served early in the day and dinner at night. She was hungry, y’all! And she needed a sandwich. So, once mid-afternoon rolled around she would have just that…a simple sandwich and tea to wash it down. The Queen, thinking this was a jolly good idea, saw the perfect opportunity for yet another chance to show off the fine china. And, so, high tea evolved with all the regality that would be expected of its royal heritage.
It was only proper that our first London high tea experience take place where it all began, at The Orangery on the grounds of Kensington Palace. The Orangery has now been turned into a beautiful banquet hall and restaurant, but it was originally used by Queen Victoria as a greenhouse and place to keep her orange trees because she didn’t want them to be rained on. Let that sink in for a second. While you and I probably have trouble finding enough pantry space to store our groceries, Queen Victoria’s orange trees basically had their own mansion. As you can probably tell, afternoon tea at The Orangery is no simple affair.
As for tea itself, it was everything you would expect and more, right down to the crisp white table linens, royal crown embossed chine, and servers outfitted in only the most elegant head-to-toe formal wear. A nice thing about high tea is that you really only have to choose your tea. Everything else is a set menu that typically includes scones with clotted cream and jam, and a variety of finger sandwiches, pastries, and other desserts. Each tea has its own offerings, but afternoon tea at The Orangery includes egg and cress bridge rolls, smoked salmon and cream cheese mini bagels,coronation chicken wraps, roast ham and English mustard sandwiches, cucumber and fresh mint sandwiches, orange-scented and currant scones served with Cornish clotted cream, English strawberry jam, mini chocolate tarts, Victoria sponge cake, mini custards with papaya jam, and a single raspberry macaron. Our teas included wild berries and Earl Grey blue flowers (also known as Lady Grey). Is your mouth watering yet? It should be! The beautiful presentation of the food and drink was only heightened by the fact that it was also completely delicious!
High tea is meant to be taken at a leisurely pace, with plenty of time to daydream about leaving your peasant life behind to live like the luxuriously rich and famous British royals. That usually takes a couple of hours, at which point you return to reality as you are forcefully removed from the property against your will by royal guards as you cry and scream, “This is the life I was meant for! I’m about that royal life!! PLEASE don’t make me leeaaavvvveee!!!” Or, maybe that was just me. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our first London high tea experience with afternoon tea at The Orangery. I’m sure it won’t be the last. In other news, this post was written while sitting in the sand on a beautiful beach in St. Ives, Cornwall. Be sure to keep stopping by to read more about our adventures as they unfold. Thanks, y’all!
*All opinions are solely my own. This is not a sponsored post.*