“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
I was taken for a wonderful treat, last Thursday afternoon by my lovely, kind and gracious cousin Margaret. We had afternoon tea at Knockranny House, Westport. The weather was overcast and misty, but the ambience of Knockranny House certainly made up for the occasion.
Afternoon tea is thought as the most quintessential of English customs, however afternoon tea is a relatively new tradition. The Custom of tea drinking dates to the third millennium BC in China but it is not until the 1660’s with the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza a Portuguese princess that established tea as a fashionable beverage at court and amongst the wealthy classes in England. The history of tea drinking in Ireland measures that of England.
The concept of “afternoon tea” was introduced in England by Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford who it is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the afternoon and later she began inviting friends to join her. This became a fashionable social event during the 1880’s with upper-class and society women who would change into gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was served in the drawing room between three and five o’clock.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones served with jam and clotted cream. Cakes and pastries are also served with tea poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.
Recent studies show that people in Ireland drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world and it remains an important social interaction today in Ireland. I had a most enjoyable afternoon and would suggest to anyone to experience the best of the afternoon tea tradition is to go and indulge yourself with a trip to one of Mayo’s finest hotels.