Afternoon Tea Week
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” ~ Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, 1881
The delightful pastime of afternoon tea whether simple, or with sweet and savoury accompaniments, has undergone a revival from its original origins in the 1840s. Credit is given to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, who, because of the long stretch of time between lunch and the evening meal, suffered from afternoon "hunger spells." Once she began sharing her delightful new habit with friends, it soon it progressed into a full-blown social event amongst the aristocracy. The 1920s marked the height of the craze, complete with lots of guests, pageantry, servants, silver teapots, fine linens, musicians, elegant teacups, and the best tea money could buy! The traditional time for afternoon tea is any time between three and five o'clock. A favourite type of tea for an afternoon cuppa is Assam, a strong full-bodied tea from India, which has a distinctive, 'malty' flavour.
For Afternoon Tea Week, we have a special tea tartan, "Afternoon Tea/Assam."
One of several designs for Sazaby League ICL Company's Afternoon Tea brand, this design evokes the colour of Assam tea, named after the region of its production, Assam, India. Assam tea is manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Grown at or near sea level, it is known for its body, briskness, malty flavour, and strong, bright colour.
Robert Bruce, a Scottish adventurer, is sometimes credited with its "discovery" when he allegedly encountered it growing wild in the year 1823 while trading in the region. He was directed to the local Singpho chief Bessa Gam and noticed the local tribesmen brewing tea from the leaves of the same bush. He arranged with the tribal chiefs to provide him with samples of leaves and seeds, which he planned to have scientifically examined.
Robert Bruce died shortly thereafter, without having seen the plant properly classified. But in the early 1830s, Robert’s brother, Charles, arranged for a few leaves from the Assam tea bush to be sent to the botanical gardens in Calcutta for proper examination. There, the plant was finally identified as a variety of tea, or Camellia sinensis, but different from the Chinese version (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis).
Assam tea is the tea most commonly used for iced tea, which was allegedly popularized at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri by an Englishman, where it was so hot, that the hot tea wasn't telling. It became an instant success.
For more fascinating facts about afternoon teas, cream teas, high and low teas, and the latest gentlemen's teas click the cup of tea.