When did we start taking “afternoon tea?” Well, hundreds of years ago the English drank coffee or wine as their usual beverage; in fact tea was unknown in the United Kingdom until as late as 1662. Then in 1662 Charles II married Catherine of Braganza of Portugal, and it as she who started the custom of tea drinking in England. She served tea instead of wine, beer or spirits, and before you knew it, tea had become the status of a royal drink and something that only the rich could afford.
Tea’s acceptance by British masses took some time. It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that tea’s popularity really began to grow as tea stated to be shipped from the British colonies. It gradually came to be viewed as our national drink, with all the British sentiments attached to it. So when you take afternoon tea at one of the most beautiful hotels in Kent it’s Catherine of Braganza you have to thank!
Tea immediately became a high class drink and hence expensive, the British masses quickly discovered that tea leaves could be brewed several times without any significant drop in the taste, so they bought second hand, brewed leaves and brewed them longer to compensate, and so tea began to find a place in British everyday life.
Soon, tea began to be sold in London coffee houses. Tea was heavily advertised as a medicinal drink which helped maintain health and beauty. The coffee house owners charged heavily for a cup of tea, as much as 6-10 pounds per cup. The government soon imposed various taxes, regulations and restrictions on sale of tea, just to cash in on the growing tea trend. This of course led to tea being smuggled into England, it began to get so bad that eventually the taxes were removed and the smuggling stopped.
Tea, of course, continued to grow in popularity. Around 1800, there developed an “Afternoon Tea” culture, where rich ladies invited their friends to meet at, for example, a hotel in Kent for a cup of tea in the afternoon. They also have served pastries and sandwiches with it. Afternoon tea was born!