Afternoon tea for a royal baby

As you may be aware, a British royal baby is due to see the light of day in the middle of July this year, first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge playing at being Canadian Rangers.

Coincidentally, Twinings have brought out a bit of inspiration for anyone wondering how to toast the new infant, in the form of three new caddies featuring their Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Peppermint teabags.

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Rather splendidly I’ve received one of each of these delightful caddies, along with a Twinings pinny. The pinny pocket can, at a squeeze, accommodate all three caddies.

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You may already know the origins and rituals of afternoon tea, but if you’d like a little education or instruction, Twinings have helpfully devoted a page to the subject, entitled English Afternoon Tea, on their website.

I don’t know what time of day the average aristocrat gets up in the morning these days, but I suspect that in the Victorian era they liked a lie-in. I deduce this from the fact that they took their dinner rather late in the evening, which was what prompted Anne, the 7th Duchess of Bedford to popularise the business of taking afternoon tea.

The Duchess was Queen Victoria’s personal assistant, and I daresay that meant she had to eat her main meals at times dictated by the monarch. However, she found the stretch between lunch and dinner too long to bear without sustenance, and so she came up with the idea of taking tea and a few snacks mid-afternoon to keep the wolf from the door.

I can understand the Duchess’s problem, for I myself begin to get hunger pangs at the traditional afternoon tea stage (between 4pm and 6pm). However, I deal with this by eating my evening meal shortly after 5pm, and getting tucked up in bed nice and early, around the time the Duchess would have been sitting down to her evening repast. Due to dining so early, I don’t often indulge in the tradition that is afternoon tea, but I have a cunning solution that makes sure I don’t miss out, viz. every now and then I take afternoon tea in place of luncheon.

What with getting these lovely tea caddies, and the sun blazing from a blue sky on Saturday, the delightful assistants and I plumped for an afternoon tea picnic in the garden.

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We drank our fill of Twinings English Breakfast tea and, not for the first time, it occurred to me that this tea is misnamed. English Breakfast seems to me to be much more an afternoon type beverage than a morning one, and it certainly slipped down a treat with our teatime fare.

It was the perfect opportunity to make use of my tea and toast sets (or, as I like to call them, teacuplates), saucers that merge into plates, providing an ideal afternoon-tea-size treat area.

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There are certain things one ought to produce for an afternoon tea, namely tea, dainty crustless sandwiches (I saved the crusts to make breadcrumbs), small scones and nibbles of cake. (Twinings have more afternoon tea ideas on their website.)

Here we have some finger sandwiches made from soya and linseed bread with spinach and roasted ‘chicken’ (actually meat-free Quorn):

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Fluffy white bread sandwiches with sliced Quorn cocktail sausages, and cheese scones:

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I enjoyed making butter curls for the scones with a clever little metal gadget.

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The cheese scones were available in two sizes – small:

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and tiny:

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My dad perched a blueberry on one half of his tiny scone to give an idea of scale (the cutter I used has a diameter of 3cm):

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The reason I made savoury, rather than sweet, scones was because afternoon tea tends to veer towards the sweet and I often find myself craving a bit more savoury to balance all the cakes out.

On the topic of cakes, we had mini raspberry buns (a vanilla cake mix with a blob of raspberry jam in the middle of the bun), topped with whipped cream and a raspberry:

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On a few of the buns the jam was visible from the outside, owing to me being somewhat heavy handed with the jam.

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There were also chocolate fruit and nut clusters (melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk with as many currants and chopped nuts as I could squash into a petit fours case),

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small slices of Border tart (a rich fruit tart in a pastry-type base, which I discovered is very difficult to cut into thin slices), and my mum’s excellent seed and peel cake.

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I can’t remember how old I was when I first developed a taste for tea and small treats, but I feel fairly certain that this somewhat disgruntled photograph was taken when I had been put into my pram for a sleep while my parents were sitting down to afternoon tea without me:

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And this one was taken on a far happier occasion, when I was informed that I was to join them in their tea taking:

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I hope that the new royal baby will have many happy years ahead of him/her devouring a wide variety of afternoon tea treats, and that he/she will become an excellent ambassador for the institution that is a good British* afternoon tea.

*Great British traditions such as taking afternoon tea, obsessing about the weather, apologising when someone bumps into you in the street and supporting the underdog at Wimbledon are some of the things that might just tip the balance against Scotland becoming an independent country next year. I like being Scottish but equally I like being British and I don’t relish having to choose between the two.

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Categories: Afternoon tea, Baking, Bread, Cake, Photography, Scone, Scotland, Tea, Teabag, Twinings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

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52 thoughts on “Afternoon tea for a royal baby

  1. I am very envious of your afternoon tea; it does look rather splendid

  2. Lol, such a wonderfully patriotic ode to Teatime, royalty and the British spirit…hurrah! What a feast, delightful, delicious, ample amounts of that amber brew and celebratory too.

    In fact, my chinese grandfather (now passed,) used to sit down to afternoon tea every day apparently, this was in Hong Kong under British rule. It’s such a classical institution and to be celebrated no less.

    • Thanks Alice, how interesting about your grandfather. I imagine that Hong Kong under British rule was an excellent place to take afternoon tea. I can almost imagine myself back there with a big hat on, sitting daintily at a wonderful spread under a whirling fan in a high ceilinged room. They knew how to do things in those days.

  3. What a lovely spread – worthy of any royal visitors! Wonderfully presented and beautifully photographed. I love your raspberry buns with cream on top – they look gorgeous. And the sandwiches – so elegant! You were a lovely baby – I can see the tea deprivation written all over your face, in the first pic. Glad you were granted your rightful place shortly after! :) I understand your feelings about the Scottish/British dilemma, though of course I’m not Scottish! The Twinings caddies look very nice, and I will keep an eye out for them. I like their Peppermint and English Breakfast teas, but Earl Grey is way too perfumed for my taste. :)

    • Thank you Jo, very kind of you to say so. Those raspberry buns were quite acceptable little morsels, and they were so small you could have two with a clear conscience. My mum referred to me as ‘the rugby football’ when I was born, being something of a sturdy young soul. I expect I made a significant noise when deprived of tasty treats. This Scottish/British thing is confusing for me, although I know that for many people it’s much more clear cut. I may yet be convinced about an independent Scotland I suppose, but it’ll be an uphill job for someone to persuade me. I think a lot of people share your feelings about Earl Grey, it certainly wouldn’t have been well received by the delightful assistants at our picnic as neither of them like it.

      • I think the bonniest babies are always like that! I remember the girls were the same. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who dislikes Earl Grey! I tried Lady Grey recently as well, and didn’t like that either. And how can you call it tea when it looks like hot milk?! Last week I bought some Tesco Finest Peppermint tea bags but I didn’t see that it also said ‘with a hint of liquorice’. Now, this is weird! The trouble is I’m not sure if it’s good or bad!

        • I’m sorry you didn’t like Lady Grey, but I’m not surprised since you don’t like Earl Grey. By the sounds of things you put milk in it, did you? I have occasionally met people who put milk into Earl Grey but I’ve never heard of anyone putting it into Lady Grey. I love Lady Grey but I think even I wouldn’t want to drink it with milk in it. I wonder if you tried either of them with no milk you might find them more palatable? If you don’t generally like tea without milk it might be best to try it weak, so that you avoid any possible bitterness. But perhaps it’s just not to your taste, black or white, which is perfectly understandable. I once ordered chai tea in a tearoom and was brought peppermint by mistake, but I didn’t discover the error until I’d put milk into the cup and poured the tea in. I can definitely say that peppermint tea is better without milk.

          You’ve raised a little bugbear of mine with the mention of liquorice. I keep finding it cropping up in otherwise perfectly acceptable teas. To my mind, it really ought to stick to Liquorice Allsorts and pontefract cakes, and stay well away from hot beverages.

          • Yep, I’ll put milk in any tea that looks in need of it! In my mind, ‘brown’ tea (i.e. not herb tea!) is naked without a drop of milk! :D But I might just try Lady Grey again without the milk. In that case, should I re-name it Lady Godiva tea? I’m drinking the peppermint & liquorice right now, I won’t be buying it again, though. The liquorice is more than a ‘hint’ – and it tastes sweet, without being sweetened. Very strange! I can imagine how the peppermint tea tasted with milk in it – even I wouldn’t try that!

            • Lady Godiva, I like it! :-) Your problem with the liquorice and peppermint tea sounds like the same problem I’ve often had with any tea containing liquorice, it overpowers everything else.

  4. I love the tradition of afternoon tea and often have it instead of lunch. We just returned from Spain where they eat dinner very late so we often had a tea break to tide us over. I love your teacuplates! What a lovely selection of treats.

    • I’m delighted to find another afternoon-tea-for-lunch person! It makes sense, doesn’t it? I was thinking about the Spanish as I wrote this post because I used to have a Spanish flatmate who ate her dinner sometimes as late as 11pm. She did make snacks around 5 o’clock though, including some quite substantial things such as very tasty Spanish omelettes. I must say, I like the Spanish custom of a siesta, that does seem very civilised.

  5. Oh yum!

  6. Wowzers! What a gorgeous tea, and so beautifully presented. I’m sure everything tasted as yummy as it looks. I’m with you, I enjoy sweets but the savories are my favorites, and I’m intrigued by your veg sammies. (Hmmm, is there a vegetarian tea book in your future?) I’m certain the Royals would have a jolly good time taking tea with you and your delightful assistants. Now let’s hope their baby is as cute as you were when you were a tyke. :0)

    • I think of you as something of a sandwich connoisseur, I’m sure you could teach me some delicious sammy fillings. I’ve never thought of writing a vegetarian tea book, but now that you mention it, it’s quite a tempting idea. I could just ramble on about food and tea, which I’m sure would be most enjoyable for me. I do hope the Royals would approve of my teatime treats, but most of all I hope that the new baby is properly inducted in the way of afternoon tea. Going by the parents, I have every expectation that the tot will be a very handsome little person.

  7. That looks a mighty fine afternoon tea. I hope the delightful assistants know how fortunate they are. But what’s this about wanting savoury to match the sweet? Not convinced about that. The border tart looks good – a favourite of mine that I get to have all too seldom.

    • Thanks David, but now that you’ve just run a marathon (can you believe it?! Excellent job!) surely you’re entitled to a large slice of border tart. I know my comment about savouries is a bit controversial, particularly as I’m very partial to sweet things, but sometimes when I’ve taken afternoon tea out I’ve had so many sweets that I’ve wished for another sandwich or two. I’m not saying I want to ditch any of the cakes, just add to them another savoury bite.

  8. Full marks for presentation, Lorna – what a gorgeous afternoon tea! I think my ideal day, meal-wise, would be to have an American brunch mid-morning – French toast with maple syrup, maybe a cinnamon roll – and afternoon tea in the late afternoon. And a snack before bed.

    I find the whole independence debate troubling as well. As you know, I’m neither Scottish nor English, but as a naturalised Brit and resident of Scotland I will have a vote. Even our 16-year-old daughter will have a vote, it seems. My own point of view is that Scotland shares so much with its southern neighbours, culturally and economically, that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I went to hear Alex Salmond speak a few years ago, and he was pointing to the great economic successes of Ireland and Iceland. But look where they are now! Like you, I might change my mind but to be honest I haven’t really read any very coherent arguments either way.

    What a cute baby you were!

    • Thank you Christine, and I must say I like your thinking on the French toast, cinnamon roll and afternoon tea front; that all sounds delicious.

      I do think Alex Salmond sounds quite persuasive at times but that’s an excellent point about the state of Iceland and Ireland, we certainly don’t want to end up in those muddied waters if we can help it. I agree with you re: ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, that’s what I feel at the moment. Devolution has been very good in many ways and I’m happy with the way things are now, it would be a dreadful shame to ‘waste’ that by going a step too far.

      I’m not sure that I was a particularly cute baby, I’ve got one photo of me looking very like Winston Churchill.

      • Yes, I feel that way too about the ‘step too far’. As for baby photos, I think every baby goes through a few Winston Churchill moments…

  9. Don’t leave us, Lorna- we need you dour Scots! :)
    Even more we need your delicious looking cheese scones (I was sure you were going to say small and large, but tiny??) Such healthy looking sarnies too. And those strange shaped plates are too delightful. I can feel my little finger rising at the appropriate angle as I look on.

    God bless Wills and Kate and thank you for a most entertaining post.

    • Do you know, I hadn’t thought about it from the English/Welsh/Northern Irish perspective, I was only thinking of how Scots might lose out but it’s nice to think that the other union members might miss the Scots. You put me to shame, Jo, I don’t think I raised one pinkie during that teatime. Very remiss of me. This is why we need the English, to keep us right on such important details.

  10. Wow! I am overwhelmed with teatime goodness. Your spread is absolutely fantastic. You should think about going into business … seriously. I can’t even pick a favorite; everything looks really great. I also love the tea tins, probably the Peppermint would be my favorite. How lovely that you got that nice pinny and some samples from Twinings. Really super post, Lorna. Enjoyed reading it immensely and the photographs just made it even better. I quite like those little plates/saucers as well.

    • What a great reaction, thanks Alison! I don’t know that I’d want to go into business making afternoon teas, doing it now and then for the parents is one thing but doing it every day on a bigger scale would be quite another. I had a Saturday job in a sandwich shop once and it wasn’t what I’d call an inspiring role. I was told off for taking too long making each one, spreading the filling to the edges too carefully when I was supposed to just slap it on with gay abandon. I think there was some sort of target number of sandwiches I was supposed to make in an hour, and I’m sure I never achieved it. The tins are rather nice, aren’t they? I think the peppermint one is lovely but I’ve passed it on to my sister as she’s quite a fan of the stuff. I’ll keep the other two though.

  11. Maybe you should start your own tea shop! Everything looks pretty and delicious! What a cute baby you were…not at all like a Rugby football! I suspect your delightful assistant didn’t want to be caught gushing!

    • Very kind of you to say so Marian, but I think I don’t have the tempermant for running a tea shop. I’m in awe of the wonderful souls who can produce tasty treats on a daily basis, day in day out. I only do it when I’m in the mood. I’ll have to ask my delightful assistant if that was the reason for her comparing me to a piece of sports equipment, but I suspect she’ll tell me that it was because I really did remind her of a rugby ball.

  12. What a work of art! That really is an afternoon tea to be proud of! I’ve never seen that kind of ‘raspberry bun’ before, but they look delicious! Especially with the real raspberries on top. There’s nothing else like them is there? One of my favourite summer things. I didn’t know you weren’t meant to drink Lady Grey with milk. I always have. Uncultured :)

    • Thank you Trish, you’re too kind, and I agree with you on the subject of raspberries. These ones came from Spain, because it’s still to early for them in Scotland, but I’m looking forward to having some locally grown ones later in the year. Re: drinking Lady Grey with milk, I take it you like it that way? If you like it like that then why not? Have you ever tried it black?

  13. What a splendid tea! I am impressed. Kel and I tend to have a snack and tea at around 3 in the afternoon – not nearly as fancy as what you have on display there – but it’s a nice ritual to stop, take a break and eat something yummy.

    • Snacks between meals are underrated, in my opinion. I imagine you have some delicious homemade tasty treats at your teatimes. :-)

  14. I am coffee total but maybe I should work on my pallette – I had no idea about afternoon tea and its origins – a great blog post as always Lorna

    • Thanks Scott, perhaps there’s room for a little tea in your schedule every now and then? Nothing wrong with coffee, mind you, and a large cafetiere would have been a fine alternative to a large teapot.

  15. What an amazing afternoon tea. It must have taken you ages to prepare the food for this feast. It all looks delicious. I particularly like the look of the mini raspberry buns.
    Do you think the Scots will gain independence? A curly question.

    • Thanks Heather, I think it took just over an hour, but that was after baking the wee buns and scones, which I did in the morning. Food preparation always takes longer than I think it’s going to.

      As for the big vote next year, I really don’t know. I find it hard to imagine that enough people will want total independence, but if the SNP do a good job of persuading people over the coming months I suppose it could happen.

  16. Great blog post!!! You make reading and learning so enjoyable :-)

  17. Loved the tongue-in-cheek discourse on the English Afternoon Tea. Informative indeed!

    Your close up shots of the accompaniments made me explore the best options to lay my hands on some snacks.

    Shakti

  18. What a beautiful afternoon tea, and how wonderful to see pics of you as a wee little poppet! :)
    And those tiny scones quite won me over. Must admit to having one of those metal butter curlers in a kitchen drawer somewhere – haven’t used it in years but I’m all inspired now!
    Much love to you and thanks for the lovely post xx

    • Thanks Nicole, strange to think that we were all babies once, although sometimes I feel I’d quite like to go back to that stage. I was a bit worried I’d make a complete hash of the butter curls, but once the butter had softened up a bit out of the fridge the gadget did its work nicely. I do hope you’re feeling good just now and thank you for popping in. :-)

      • You would have been welcome at our butter curling table, Lorna. You curl like a pro! One of my grandmothers was quite particular about butter curls.
        Am very up and down, but happy with it all.

        • You’re too kind, my dear. :-) I remember butter curls being a part of my childhood and I connect them with my grandparents coming to tea. It’s not something I see much anywhere else, if ever really. We should revive it! I’m glad to hear you’re bearing up, I often think about you and hope the ups are balancing out the downs.

  19. You have outdone yourself…any royal would be thrilled to share afternoon tea with you!

  20. Give…me… those…scones…right…now…. It all looks totally delightful.

    • I’d gladly bung you a few scones but I think my throwing arm isn’t up to the job of lobbing them all the way down to the south-west of England. Maybe just as well as they might get intercepted by pigeons en route. :-)

  21. I can see you started learning about tea at an early age – I’m glad you didn’t have to wait too long!

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