|Photo by Liyster|
However, in the United States, this Cream Tea is often confused for Afternoon Tea or High Tea, both of which are altogether different.
The website High Tea gives a wonderful history on how the tradition got started:
In the 19th Century, it was customary for the upper classes in England to have their evening meal rather late, say 8:00-9:00 pm. It was understandable then that one might become hungry in the late afternoon.
Sometime around 1840, Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, complained of a “sinking feeling” and requested that some light food and a pot of tea (usually Darjeeling) be brought to her private living quarters to help ward off her mid afternoon hunger. This light food probably included bread, butter, and perhaps biscuits.
The idea proved so successful that it soon became routine, and the Duchess decided to invite a few of her friends to her private rooms for tea in the afternoon. A new social event was born in which the invited guests would have an opportunity to meet with friends, catch up on the latest news, discuss recent events, etc.
The service would normally take place in the lady’s parlour, or withdrawing room, or boudoir and be served on low-decorative tables. Hence this event also became known as “low” tea.
The light food served with afternoon tea gradually evolved to include more elaborate fare such as crustless finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a final course of sweets and pastries. The idea was to provide easy-to-manage portions suitable for entertaining in a sitting room.
The Duchess was lady-in-waiting and a lifelong friend to Queen Victoria, whom she introduced to the idea and, in so doing, gained an influential supporter. The trend gained popularity, and it soon became a fashionable pastime of the upper classes. To meet this new demand, English china manufacturers, linen makers, and silversmiths began turning out fine accoutrements to be used in the service of afternoon tea.
As you can see, the Afternoon Tea, served between 3:30 and 5PM, is what is often confused for a High Tea. In the UK, High Tea is not something fancy but more of an actual meal that is served instead of supper. It includes much more hearty fare with meat, fish, and egg dishes. This evening meal is usually associated with the working class and is consuemd between 5 and 7PM.
But today is simple: enjoy a pot of tea with a sconce, some clotted cream, and some jam. Happy National Cream Tea Day!