THE tradition of taking afternoon tea compromising of a pot of tea and a light snack dates back to the mid 1840’s.

Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, and a close friend of the young Queen Victoria, complained of a ‘sinking feeling’ in the middle of the afternoon when hunger pangs took hold. In those days, only two meals a day were eaten: a substantial breakfast and then dinner served in the evening.

The Duchess found that having a light snack in the middle of the afternoon was the answer. Initially retreating to the sanctuary of her boudoir at Woburn Abbey to partake of tea, she started to invite her friends along making it a more social event in the lounge at Woburn. She continued the practice when she returned to London and many of the fashionable folk in society joined her.

When her friend Queen Victoria adopted the practice too, she made afternoon tea a more formal affair by introducing ‘tea receptions’ inviting up to 200 people to attend. Guests could come and go between set times, partaking of tea, sandwiches and delicate cakes to satisfy their hunger until dinner.

Afternoon tea was usually served around 4pm although there was a popular song which said ‘at half past three, everything stops for tea.’ The more substantial ‘high tea’ was served later between 5pm and 6pm and was usually eaten by working class people who had been at work all day, arriving home hungry at 6pm. Their ‘high tea’ was a more substantial meal as they were unlikely to eat again that evening.

Nowadays, in today’s modern society, the grace and elegance of having a stylish afternoon tea has, for many people, been forgotten or something they have never actually experienced. We will go out for lunch and dinner but often forget that having tea out can be an equally memorable occasion especially when we are celebrating a special event with a loved one.

With Mothering Sunday fast approaching on March 6, followed a couple of weeks later by Easter, plan to treat your mother or a loved one to afternoon tea in the stylish surroundings of Restaurant 56 at Sudbury House Hotel, in Faringdon.

The menu will be planned and prepared by the award winning restaurant 56 team, including MasterChef: The Professional’s finalist Nick Bennett who is a master of patisserie work. You will be treated to a selection of traditional finger sandwiches with fillings such as smoked salmon, cucumber and home cooked ham. No afternoon tea is complete without freshly baked scones, still warm from the oven, accompanied by thick clotted cream and preserves made at the hotel by the Restaurant 56 team. Finally, your tastebuds will be delighted with a selection of delicious homemade cakes and fancies, many of which are made from Nick’s own recipes, with or without a glass of chilled Prosecco on arrival.

Tea will be served in the stylish garden room of the Grade II listed Sudbury House. In the warmer weather, the doors will be open leading to the patio and landscaped garden beyond.

Afternoon tea is served Monday to Sunday between noon and 4.30pm. To reserve your table for tea call 01367 241272. Prices start at £20 per person or £28 per person including a glass of Prosecco.

Restaurant 56, Sudbury House Hotel, Faringdon
01367 241272