Episode 106: The History of Afternoon Tea

We have a truly delightful episode for you, as we delve into one of the most quintessentially English customs – the afternoon tea.

From the grandest of tea parties to the humblest of gatherings, our conversation with Gillian Perry will transport you back in time to the elegant drawing rooms and lush gardens where afternoon tea has blossomed.

So, grab your favourite cuppa and join us on this journey through history as we unravel the story of English afternoon tea.

Hazel Baker is an active Londoner, a keen theatre-goer and a qualified London tour guide.

She has won awards for tour guiding and is proud to be involved with some great organisations. She is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and an honorary member of the Leaders Council.

Channel 5’s Walking Wartime Britain (Episode 3) and Yesterday Channel’s The Architecture the Railways Built (Series 3, Episode 7). Het Rampjaar 1672Afl. 2: Vijand Engeland and Arte.fr Invitation au Voyage, À Chelsea, une femme qui trompe énormément.

 

 

Gillian  Perry MBE was the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Anne Frank Trust UK for 26 years, which she built into one of the UK’s most respected educational charities.  She has always had a passion for social history, and since her retirement from the Trust in 2016 she has been lecturing on the life and legacy of Anne Frank, as well as a wide range of social history topics, both in the UK and internationally. The social history of English afternoon tea has proven to be one of her most popular talks, and has led to the publication in 2022 of her book ‘Please pass the scones’. Gillian speaks on afternoon tea in historic houses, hotels, and cruise ships and gives talks for charities and for private clients’ birthday parties and other celebrations. She regularly broadcasts on this topic.

Website: https://gillianwalnesperry.com

Please pass the scones – Carnegie Publishing

Please Pass the Scones Book on Amazon

Beaumonde Traveler

Episode 106: The History of Afternoon Tea

[00:00:00] Hazel Baker: Hello and welcome to our London History Podcast, where we share our love of London. It’s people, places, and history. It’s designed for you to learn things about London that most Londoners don’t even know. I am your host, Hazel Baker, a qualified London Tour guide, and CEO and founder of londonguidedwalks.co.uk

Each episode is supported by show notes, transcripts, photos, and further reading all to be found on our website. Click on londonguidedwalks.co.uk/podcast and then select the episode that you fancy. And if you enjoy what we do, then you’ll love our guided walks and private tours that we offer throughout the year.

To get that cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy. 

Today we have a truly delicious episode for you as we delve into one of the quintessential British customs the afternoon tea. I am delighted to introduce the lovely Gillian Perry, MBE.

Special guest today. Hello Gillian. 

Gillian Perry:  Hello, Hazel. 

Hazel Baker: Now I know we actually met over afternoon tea, one of your engaging talks. So I am so excited to get down to the detail of afternoon tea with you and share it with all of our listeners today. 

[00:01:25] Gillian Perry: I’m looking forward to it too.

[00:01:26] Hazel Baker: So I think the first question that we have is: What is the history of afternoon tea and how did it become a popular social ritual?

[00:01:36] Gillian Perry: Well, it all started around 1840 and it was a lady, a young woman called Annamaria Russell, who happened to be the Seventh Duchess of Bedford. Now for your international listeners, they may not know where Bedford is, but it’s a county north of London, about 20 miles north of London, and she was newly married to the Duke of Bedford, and she lived in a beautiful stately home called Woburn Abbey.

And one afternoon she was in her rooms at Woburn Abbey. And she’d finished lunch around midday, possibly half past 12. And dinner in those aristocratic households was fashionably late in those days. So the poor girl had to wait till about half past eight, nine o’clock to get her dinner. And she had a little stomach. Even though she was wearing a very tightly corseted gown in those days, her little stomach started to rumble and she came.

She had an idea, and she knew that her servant was about to come into her rooms with her afternoon pot of tea. So she called the servant and she said, do you think that you could possibly as Cook when they prepare in the kitchens my pot of tea, could they just put a few little tidbits on a silver tray and bring them up here just to keep me going till dinnertime?

And her maid sort of looked at her and bit of surprise and said, well, Ma’am, it’s only about four and a half hours till dinner. But nonetheless, she went and made the request to the cook. And so a little tray was brought up with a few little bits and pieces for the duchess to enjoy with her tea, drink of tea.

Now, I’ve asked the curators at Woburn Abbey. What actually was on that first tray? Because I actually stood in her rooms, a couple of years ago and I was giving some talks there and they said they don’t know, but they suspect it was probably some bits of bread and butter. Maybe a couple of biscuits, little pieces of cake, perhaps.

But it sated her hunger and kept her going till dinner. And then she started getting into a habit of it and then she sort of thought, well, wouldn’t be a nice idea if I invited some of my lady friends around to join me. So that’s what she did and it just so happened that one of her lady friends was none other than Queen Victoria.

He. Anna Maria was actually a lady of the bed chamber that looked after the queen. So she divulged her little secret to Queen Victoria who thought, even though she wasn’t the image of the older Queen Victoria, that we remember a very portly, stout little lady. She was of course a young married herself, 1840, and she was also very slim and but she decided she was gonna get into that habit, and so she started to bring it into court.

And she invited her friends to court, and in fact, she then went on to host garden parties in the grounds of Buckingham Palace with afternoon tea, which was the precursor to those lovely garden parties that our late queen used to have every summer. So that’s the story, and it’s like many stories in history, Hazel.

It’s just a simple act. A spontaneous act by an individual that goes down. And becomes accepted by the people. 

[00:04:48] Hazel Baker: Well, I think it was a very good idea. Few sandwiches and a little bit of cake along with tea in the afternoon. Sounds perfect. Absolutely. I dunno, what about you though, Jillian? There’s, once I’ve had an afternoon tea, there’s no way I’m going to be able to eat any dinner afterwards.

No, 

[00:05:03] Gillian Perry: it’s, that’s quite true. And it depends on how late in the afternoon you have it. If you have about 4, 4 30, which is the traditional time for tea, if you’re thinking about having a. Seven o’clock, I think there’s no way. Maybe have a bit of salad to follow Afternoon 

[00:05:17] Hazel Baker: tea. Now we talked, you mentioned about having a cup tea in the afternoon anyway, so, but tea was quite inexpensive commodity, wasn’t it?

[00:05:27] Gillian Perry: It was tea drinking actually became popularized in England in the mid 16 hundreds at 17th century. And that was not to do with anyone British English. It was actually a Portuguese princess who popularized tea drinking in Britain, and she was Princess Catherine of Braganza who’d come to England to marry.

King Charles ii, the Stewart King in 1662. And with her, she brought a great dowry. She brought spices and money and jewels and even the ports of Tanj and Bombay for the British, but she also brought a big chest of tea, which was her favourite beverage. Now, t had been, Brought into England in small quantities, usually by a ship’s captain who ventured to the east to the far east of China, but usually for his own use.

And it was described very much as a drink for health. It was a health drink. Medicinal, capable of curing everything in the body, including cleansing out the spleen. So now you know Hazel, if you want your spleen cleansed out. 

[00:06:34] Hazel Baker: Thanks for that. Top tip.

[00:06:34] Gillian Perry: Catherine drank tea which had been popularized in Portugal because of the Portuguese merchants and explorers who were having a regular trade with China.

We didn’t at that time. And so she brought it and she brought it into court and she introduced it as a beverage rather than a medicinal drink. And she replaced the beer and the ales and the spirits and the wines in court. And of course then because she was the queen, it popularized it, particularly among women as well.

So by the 18th century, it was becoming very popular for aristocratic households. To drink tea, not necessarily in the afternoon Hazel, but any time of the day particularly if they went to a dinner party after dinner, sometimes it replaced the ports and the wines, particularly in those wonderful pleasure gardens like Vauxhall and Chelsea.

You’d finish your evening with tea. It was a very classy thing to drink, but it was very expensive. And this was because the British government because it was getting so popular, decided he would be great. Income tax. So they walked a huge 119% income tax on it, which helped them actually to fund the seven years war every night.

The lady of an aristocratic household would lock her tea caddy religiously with a key. To keep the hands of those servants outta the tea caddy because we didn’t want the servants to, to drink the precious tea and the poorer classes in those days, if they fancied a cup of tea, they were actually reduced to boiling up the dregs of the tea leaves that they could find.

It had already been used. Hence the expression, the drugs of society. That’s all to do with the. Said that they were limited to drinking. Ooh. And so tea smuggling itself became very lucrative. And so your smugglers turned their hand from liquor and tobacco to tea smuggling. It was the most lucrative smuggling of all.

But then Pit the younger, the Prime Minister, in 1784, he introduced the Commutation Act, which reduced the price of tea down to a much more reasonable 12.5%. And so after that, it became very accessible to most of people. So really by the time we had afternoon tea, anyone was drinking tea. 

[00:08:58] Hazel Baker: It seems to be a very women-dominated history with this afternoon tea.

So how did they contribute to the social stasis and impairment of afternoon tea? 

[00:09:08] Gillian Perry: Well, the afternoon tea parties that were sort of initiated by the Duchess of Bedford, she would invite her friends, but they were women friends mainly because of course the men were outta work and there, those, the men were out at work.

And so the women were sort of entertaining their friends having a gossip and what have you. And by the 1860s the tea rooms started opening B C T rooms, which was grew out of the Aerated bread company. They became very popular because they were open to all classes, and by the 1920s they had about 250 branches.

And then the caterers J. Lyons and Co, they opened their first tea rooms, but they Lyons aimed to cater for the more refined classes. And as you probably know they resulted in these magnificent Lyons corner houses in the West end that were like emporiums for eating and music. 

But the thing was Hazel, that women felt comfortable going to public tea rooms because they felt that they were an environment. It was afternoon tea. It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t like you were going out in the evening for dinner without your husband. So they felt that they could go and meet their women friends in a public place without any risk to their reputations.

And then of course, department store, like Selfridges, for example, got in on the act and realized that this was something that you could offer women where they could have afternoon tea and perhaps a fashion show, and so they could sell the afternoon tea, but they could also invite them to look at the latest fashions in, in, in the actual department stores.

So they were killing quite a few birds with one stone. 

[00:10:46] Hazel Baker: Yeah, there must have been very few safe spaces for women to enjoy in Victorian dimes. Yes. 

[00:10:52] Gillian Perry: And that really led to the women’s emancipation mu movement and eventually, of course, women’s suffrage. And they say that this all started over pots of tea in public tea rooms.

[00:11:05] Hazel Baker: I see. When you get a group of women together, there’s no knowing what we’ll be able to achieve. Yes. So can you explain the various etiquette rules and customs that are now associated with afternoon tea and maybe give a little bit of detail on how they evolved over time? 

[00:11:20] Gillian Perry: Yes, indeed. Really as we’ve made our way through the Victorian era, the etiquette and the customs became more and more firmly entrenched around afternoon tea.

It was only really 20 years after the Duchess of Bedford first rang her bell for her maid. In 1861, Isabella Beaten, who we all know as the great domestic goddess of her day. She suggested the afternoon tea should consist of perhaps thin bread and butter cut into triangles some fancy pastries and cakes, et cetera.

And you bring in fresh supplies as more and more guests arrive. And she actually refers to different types of tea. You can have your old-fashioned tea, or you can have your at-home tea. And then of course, by the late Victorian era, there was a whole raft of books on afternoon tea etiquette.

I’ll give you an example. In 1885, it was Lady Constant, Howard, Constance Howard, and she insisted that invitations should be sent for an at-home. You didn’t have to mention afternoon tea because it was expected if it was in the afternoon and servants didn’t need to stand by the door to announce guests because they would make, they could make their way directly to the host.

Now remember this Hazel ladies intending to eat cake should remove their gloves, but they can stay on if they are just intending to drink without eating. However, a later author tells us that gloves can be kept on for eating biscuits. 

[00:12:58] Hazel Baker: So Well, of course, that makes total sense.

[00:12:59] Gillian Perry: When you pick up the next rich tea or digestive with your cup of tea, you can keep your gloves on.

Oh, that’s a relief. And then there was 1893. There was another lady, Gertrude Campbell. She was insisting on firm rules and different rules for a town-based tea and a tea, and she advised that servants should leave the room once tea had been served. So that your guests can talk freely and make of that what you will be remembering, of course, that servants would sometimes move from employment to employment and carry their sequences with them. Of course. Now, for example, holding your saucer under your cup. Now if you are sitting at a table, you would never lift your saucer with your cup when you drink from the cup. Oh, just not done.

No. If you’re standing, however, at a tea reception, then of course you have to hold your cup and your saucer together. Stirring the tea is another art. You start with your spoon at six o’clock and you stir in a clockwise direction. And please make sure never to clink your spoon against the side of the cup.

[00:14:09] Hazel Baker: Oh, that is a, an ick on my, if I hear that chinking. Oh my goodness. No. 

[00:14:16] Gillian Perry: Your little finger… now. So many people ask me about this. Should I stick my little finger out? No, definitely not to do that anymore. That customer is long gone, Hazel. 

[00:14:27] Hazel Baker:  Really? Oh no. I’m gonna have to strap mine down.

[00:14:32] Gillian Perry: Looks a bit pretentious now I have to tell you because it actually dates back to medieval. And also to the times when teacups were lit around bowls and in medieval times the little finger was used for dipping into the sauce and spices and picking up on your little finger and putting it into your dinner plate.

Oh, there’s also another reason. If you put all four fingers around, the carpet can imbalance it, so you only put three fingers. The other thing is to try and keep as many fingers away from the cup as possible, because those, not-very-hygienic servants would’ve been touching the cup.

[00:15:08] Hazel Baker: No, that makes sense. Of course, I’m shocked at that one. I think it’s I guess it’s a habit, but also sometimes when I’m having afternoon tea, the China Cup, the handle is so small that I actually can’t fit a finger in. And so I’m pinching the handle. And then, of course, the little finger goes out, I assume.

Mentally balance it a lot. Mo 

[00:15:27] Gillian Perry: more, well, I’ll forgive you for that one. Needs must as they say 

[00:15:32] Hazel Baker: indeed. And now I’m wanting to know when cake forks were invented because, we had some, as a wedding gift, we always use them for cake. But now I’m thinking, well I can just maybe forego that and just eat with my hands if I take my gloves.

[00:15:46] Gillian Perry: Yeah, well I think cake folks were another Victorian item actually. There were quite a few things that sort of arrived on the Victorian tea table. Some of which we still use and some of which we from, well, we think we’re very anachronistic now. So for example, The typical Victorian tea table would comprise your lovely teapot, your milk jug, and your sugar bowl, which of course, still survives now.

And of course, a hot water pot tea strainer your sugar tongs for your lumps of sugar, and also your slop bowl. Now many of the people that I talked to remember actually slot balls. Now slop bowls were not for spit. Tea out not for tasting tea and spitting it out. It was not like wine tasting where you spit it out, but the slop bowl was when you had finished your first cup of tea.

Remember they were tea leaves and you wanted to refresh your cup. So instead of getting a clean cup, you were just. Tip out the dregs of what was left in the cup of tea into the slop bowl, and then it would be completely refreshed. So that was the slot bowl. And as I say, many of my audience members actually remember them on the table.

And there was also a berries scoop because the Victorians love to have berries with their tea and a bun warmer. And I’m always so careful of how I say that when I say, A bun warmer because the Victorians love warm buns with their tea. There was also something lovely, very romantic called a tete a tete was a tea service with your teapot, your sugar bowl and your milk jug, but two cups and saucers and that was for Mr and Mrs So that was very romantic. And something that really amuses my audience is the moustache cup. I dunno if you’ve ever heard of that one, Hazel. I haven’t. No. Pleased. Oh, in Victorian times men love to wax their moustaches. I dunno if there was, it was a side of masculinity or what, but these pointed waxed moustaches were very popular.

Oh, well that was fine. But when you came to drink your cup of tea, the steam from the tea would actually melt the wax. Oh. And so you have a very unedifying sight of drops of liquid wax floating on the surface of your cup of tea. Or someone came up with the idea of the moustache cup, which was a cup with a little.

Rim little sort of lip in China, the top cup with a hole in very much, like lids that they put on a cup of coffee in Costa when you take it away and you drink the coffee through the little hole in the lid. Well, the man with the wax and moustache would drink his cup of tea through the hole in the little China lip within the top of the.

Which meant that he could enjoy his tea without any risk of the wax melting into the cup of tea. 

[00:18:37] Hazel Baker: How Very clever. Yes. I must admit. I do like the sound of that anyway, because, I like to spend time over my tea and often when you’ve got a wider open China cup, it gets cold quite quickly. 

[00:18:49] Gillian Perry: Yes.

Now there are sort of, the Victorians love certain types of cakes. With their afternoon tea, and they particularly went for cakes that had seeds, nuts, dried fruit, like raisins. And then when nursery tea came in, when the children started having afternoon tea, even though there was no health and safety executive in those days, they were worried about these would stick in the little treasure’s throats.

So they started giving the children. A sponge cake, what? Like a plain cake just sandwiched together perhaps with a bit of cream or jam, et cetera. Now, that actually became the precursor to the Victoria Sponge, which we know and love Victoria didn’t really take to these sponges necessarily at the beginning because they were very heavy.

They were more like a very solid Madeira cake. But it was only when Alfred Bird, the food manufacturer, invent. Baking powder that sponges became lighter. And when they did, so Queen Victoria took to eating sponges. She loved it. Particularly if the jam was made from rasp from her own Scottish estate.

[00:19:58] Hazel Baker: I was going to say, it has to be raspberry, doesn’t it? I think strawberry’s too sweet. 

[00:20:01] Gillian Perry: I agree with you, I like a little bit of sharpness with the jam. Yeah. And then of course, we had the Battenberg cake was introduced. Which I love too. Battenberg was introduced in 1884 to mark the wedding of Prince Louis Battenberg to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria.

They actually became the grandparents of our late Prince Philip, and that’s where Battenberg came from. And then, of course, lemon, they loved things like a lemon sponge as well, and Victorian tea tables. So some of, as I say, some of those things have really sort of come down through time and some of them have sort of disappeared particularly the moustache.

[00:20:38] Hazel Baker: I think bring back the Battenberg with an afternoon tea. I’ll be up for that. I agree. Yeah. The bit that frustrates me now Jillian, is when you go for a modern afternoon tea and they give you some things in what look like little shot glasses and there’s jelly in it in that, and I’m like, what earth is this? Gimme cake!

[00:20:54] Gillian Perry: It’s certainly not a traditional or a classic afternoon tea. I know. Yes. And also, Some hotels and respirators are taking a bit of license with the savers as well. We like our triangular and square sandwiches, of course, with the crus cut off, but some teas are sort of serving much more exotic sort of staff than savers.

More like a canape that you would expect at a reception. 

[00:21:20] Hazel Baker: Yes. I’ve had for focaccia and I just thought that rosemary’s gonna get stuck in between my teeth and of course, it’s oily as well. And then I also mini quiches…

[00:21:30] Gillian Perry: That’s right. Yes. 

[00:21:31] Hazel Baker: I want a nice sandwich, a good quality, nicely, evenly balanced in texture and flavour ful sandwich.

[00:21:38] Gillian Perry: Egg mayonnaise, a smoked salmon sandwich, and a course cucumber sandwich. 

[00:21:44] Hazel Baker: Yes indeed. Now, when? Now regardless of what fillings the sandwiches have, it is always tea though. That’s the important ingredient here. And there are many tea varieties. And so what were the some of the popular varieties and blends at the time for afternoon tea when it was at its peak?

[00:22:03] Gillian Perry: Yes. Now concurrent with the Duchess of Bedford initiating Afternoon tea, there was a big change in British tea drinking from Chinese tea to Indian tea. And it’s quite an interesting story involved in that because the East End India Company, some of the colonists in India had spotted some wild tea bushes growing.

But there was no Indian tea industry as such in those days, and they wondered if perhaps they could cross-cultivate. Chinese tea with these wild tea bushes and create something sustainable that could be the basis of the tea industry in India. So what were they gonna do? How are they gonna do this?

Because the Chinese have been guarding their secrets of cultivating and manufacturing tea for many centuries. And so what they did, was they sent for a Scottish horticulturist called Mr Robert Fortune from the Chelsea Botanic Garden. He was, he’d known, he knew China and he came out and he went to China and he was going to be a sort of spy and also try and get some cuttings and smuggle them out.

So he actually disguised himself as a Chinese Mandarin because he knew the Chinese wouldn’t give up their secrets and he took with him a Chinese servant as a translator. I think he pretended he had something wrong with his voice. How this Scottish man got away with being a Chinese Mandarin, I do not know.

But he spent months actually touring the. Tea plantations getting cuttings going to the factories he explained to them that he was a Mandarin from a distant province and he wanted to take some tea back to his own province, and he wanted to set up a factory to employ workers. And they divulged their secrets and he actually smuggled these.

Cuttings these plants out to Assam and Darjeeling, where the colonists cross-cultivated them very successfully on those rainy and windy hillsides. And that was really the basis. And this really coincided with the same time that afternoon t was being introduced. So really by 1888, the taste in Britain for tea had really moved over.

From these, this very delicate China tease, which we still love, by the way, to these much more robust and full-bodied Indian black teas. Now, another tea that became very popular in those days was Earl Grey, named of course after the British Prime Minister of the 1830s who signed the Abolition of Slavery Act, and as a thank you for ending the East India communist trade monopoly.

When he was Prime Minister, he received a lovely consignment. Bergamot infused tea at his home in how called in Northumberland. And it had been specially blended for him to suit the water at his estate in Northumberland. And it was, and he found it delicious. And then it was popularised and named after him.

So, there was quite a seismic change in. Tea drinking from these delicate Chinese teas to very robust, tasty, flavourful Indian teas, and actually the temperance movement that we’re trying to draw people away from drinking ale and beer who weren’t really quite so partial to a mild cup of green or jasmine tea.

Once the Indian teas had sort of hit Britain, it was much easier for the Temperance Societies to transfer people’s partiality to tea rather, away from beer and nail. That’s 

[00:25:40] Hazel Baker: interesting, isn’t it? You thinking about afternoon tea and, with the cream, with the scones and that black tea, nice robust Assam is, carries that, that fattiness well, doesn’t it?

Oh yes, absolutely. And thinking then also about the Cutty Sark, for example, which you can see now at Greenwich rushing across the waves racing everybody else to try and bring the first flush of Tea to London. 

[00:26:03] Gillian Perry: Clipping the time it would take to bring it from the far East.

[00:26:09] Hazel Baker: Yeah. Yeah. How exciting. So I’ve never heard of a teasy before. 

[00:26:15] Gillian Perry: Well, he actually became known as Robert Fortune, as the Tea Thief. But there is a blue plaque in his home in Chelsea. And but he’s not referred to as the thief he’s referred to as an eminent horticulturalists. Well, of course, 

[00:26:28] Hazel Baker: of course.

It’s how history’s told, isn’t it? Yes. So how did the Industrial revolution impact the production then and also distribution and consumption of tea? Did that influence the traditional afternoon tea?

[00:26:42] Gillian Perry: Yeah, in a couple of ways. Actually. Fun enough, some enlightened factory owners. Well, some people would call ’em enlightened.

Some would not. But they discovered that if they gave their workers who had risen very early in the morning, had a sort of menial breakfast and perhaps a very little lunch if they gave them a stimulating and refreshing drink, plus a little sugary snack in the middle of the afternoon. It would keep their workers going at full energy until it was time for them to go home.

So, as you can see, some were enlightened, but some were actually, it was in their own best interests to keep them going the rest of the day. But actually, it was during the Industrial Revolution that the terms Heidi and Lotti came about. Now, what I’m gonna say might be a little bit controversial and surprise your American listeners because I have a lot of discussions about this with my American friends and families who always refer to afternoon tea as Heidi because they associate it with the higher echelons of society. They associated with Queen and Aristo aristocracy and thought of it as very grand. But actually, a Heidi was more the tea that a working-class person had because, in the Industrial Revolution, they would go home to their tea in the higher part of the afternoon.

Which would be six o’clock and it would be protein-rich meat or cheese or egg tea, often called meat tea, actually, cuz it would give them the sustenance of the day. A low tea or what we call a classic or traditional afternoon tea was enjoyed in the lower part of the afternoon, like three o’clock, or four o’clock.

By the aristocracy because they knew that they were going to get a sustaining dinner in the evening. So that became known as low tea, often eaten at low tables, what we would call coffee tables now. But they didn’t need to use all the utensils and knife and fork and a big plate, et cetera, cuz these were picky things just to keep them going till dinnertime.

Whereas farm labourers or industrial workers going home from the factory, this would be their main meal. So they would eat it at a higher table where they could put their plate and their knife and fork. And of course, the difference in the terms tea, whether you call it tea or dinner, your evening meal is still a little bit of a social divider and also actually a geographic divider in Britain because people in the north tend to call their evening meal.

Or Heidi and people in the south dinner and it’s a social divider still as well. So there you are, American listeners. Some American hotels and tea rooms. I know just always describe it as Heidi because they want it to sound very grand, but it’s actually what you are having is classic, traditional or a Newton.

[00:29:34] Hazel Baker: There you go. You’ve heard it here. I’ve got one final question for you, Gillian, which is I think one of the most important questions when we’re talking about afternoon tea, and it comes down to scones or scones, and indeed whether you put cream or jam on first. 

[00:29:51] Gillian Perry: How can one little cake be so controversial? Well, it starts, as you say, with the pronunciation. Is it sone or is it scone? Again, it could be an. Very often that geographical divide, but either is correct and it’s laid out in this little poem. Actually, I ask the maid in Dul tone to order me a buttered scone. The silly girl has been and gone and ordered me a buttered scone.

So whether you say scone or scone, and sometimes I say either, it really doesn’t matter, but even more controversial as you say, is jam first or queen first. Now jam first topped with cream is associated with Cornwall, which is the county in the far southwest of England. And cream. And then a blob of jam on top is more the Devon Way.

And I always ask, when I’m with a physical audience, I always ask for a show of hands. And I was giving this talk on a cruise ship a couple of years ago before the. And I asked the show of hands, who likes the Corn Way? Who likes the Devon Way? And one lady in the audience, Hazel, she put up two hands and I said to her do you realize you’ve got two hands up?

And she said, oh, yes. She said I like to cut my scone in half and I do one the Devon way and one the corn way. And I thought, how very sensible? 

[00:31:11] Hazel Baker: I don’t know if I could do that now. I’ve done it one way. I don’t know, it feels wrong doing the other. I’m jam first. 

[00:31:17] Gillian Perry: Yes. That’s the common way.

[00:31:20] Hazel Baker: But saying that though I do prefer a conserve rather than a jam. 

[00:31:24] Gillian Perry: Yes. And as we discussed earlier, the sharper the better. Yes. A raspberry or black current as opposed to a strawberry. All black current. Yes. Very nice. 

[00:31:31] Hazel Baker: You are very naughty, Jillian. The trouble is that I have some clotted cream in the fridge.

Oh, I’m now going to have to do it justice, aren’t I? 

[00:31:43] Gillian Perry: You certainly are. You certainly are. And if you don’t have a scone, maybe you can have it on little Bizkit. So, I’m, I just want to quickly mention my book, Hazel. Yes, please. Cause I’ve been giving this talk to so many women’s groups, hotels, historic houses, cruise ships, and people’s birthday parties.

And people kept saying to me, oh, My goodness, I didn’t realize it was so much to learn about afternoon tea. Have you written a book? So, when the Pandemic came, like many people, I sat down and wrote the book and I’m very pleased with it. The publisher Carnegie, has done the most incredible job and it looks beautiful.

So many beautiful illustrations, and it’s designed. Beautifully. And people, when they come to my talks, they buy a copy and then they email me and said, I’ve got your book, but I’ve got a relative or a friend who’s got a birthday coming up, I’d like to buy another one as a gift. Will you sign it for me? So, it is lovely and it’s beautifully illustrated and it’s a really fun thing to have a few recipes in there, but lots and lots more facts, fun facts and things you always thought you knew, but you.

Yes 

[00:32:50] Hazel Baker: indeed. And we’ll put all the links to Gillian’s lovely book on the website as well. So just go to londonguidedwalks.co.uk/podcast and click on Afternoon Tea and all the links, including Gillian’s biography, are there as well. So Gillian, thank you so much for today. But I’ve been enlightened 

[00:33:12] Gillian Perry: And now you’re going to have your clotted cream and preserve and please with a drink your tea from a cup and saucer, and not from a mug. 

[00:33:22] Hazel Baker: I don’t know what you mean…!

 

Listen now to discover more about London's history

Latest podcast episodes

Latest Episodes

Upcoming Guided Walks

Scroll to Top