Why the nation is hungrier than ever for afternoon tea

James Haywood, who has been busy developing an afternoon tea menu for Vitalé Café and Bar, reveals why the British tradition is back in vogue

Rule #1: scones must be warm!
Rule #1: scones must be warm!
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Rule #1: scones must be warm!
Rule #1: scones must be warm!

Delicately cut, freshly filled sandwiches aside oh-so-petite pastries and cakes, topped off with a spot of perfectly brewed tea. Sound like your idea of heaven? You’re not alone – since the early 18th century women have taken pleasure in the ritual of afternoon tea, devised as a way to satisfy their hunger before an evening meal.

Originally established as a private social event for ladies of the upper echelons of society, it was actually a royal, Queen Victoria, who opened the floodgates of this formal occasion up to a wider scale – sometimes with more than 200 attendees – known as ‘tea receptions’. In Britain today, afternoon tea is often seen as an indulgence saved for special occasions such as birthdays or catch-ups with friends.

Best of British
But in times of austerity, isn’t it interesting how such a traditional treat has remained so popular? In my opinion, the ‘best of British’ spirit born from events such as the Olympics, the royal wedding and Wimbledon have fuelled our appetite for a bit of pomp and circumstance. And with the likes of Mary Berry and her Great British Bake Off, our love – and confidence – of cooking has never been so great. Between work and family life I know that people don’t go out as often, but I also know that when they do, they’re are looking to treat themselves. And why not?

So it’s no surprise that we want to include this offering for our Aqua Sana guests. It’s my job to give people what they want – and our Strawberry Cream Tea last summer proved that there is a real desire for this kind of menu. I met with some colleagues last month to chat about the development of our Vitalé Café and Bar afternoon tea menu; it will include some classics like smoked salmon and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, and, of course, scones and clotted cream. We can’t forget about those!

Make your own
If you want a bite of tradition in your own home, here are my afternoon tea top tips:

  • Scones must be warm
  • Sandwiches must be bite-sized and well-filled – this occasion calls for generosity!
  • All food, particularly sandwiches must be absolutely fresh
  • Different flavours and different textures is the key

Why not take advantage of our latest offer and treat yourself to an Afternoon Tea Spa Day for Two?

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James Haywood

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James Haywood

I’ve been working for Center Parcs since 2006 and, as Group Executive Chef, I am responsible for all restaurants on our Villages, from recipe development to quality control. Tuck in to my monthly posts to get a taste of my day-to-day life, as well as discovering recipes and tips.