From the 14th of August until the 21st afternoon tea week will be celebrated in bars, hotels and restaurants across the country. The reason; to keep an age old British tradition of afternoon tea at the forefront of our minds.
In keeping with our hotel theme, we’ve taken a look into how afternoon tea might have been enjoyed on board Titanic from the attire of those who dined, down to the sandwich fillings and favourite cakes.
Let’s take a look at how the well-to-do of the time enjoyed our favourite mid-afternoon snack pastime.
Dressing for the occasion
When afternoon tea began in 1807, it was served to an individual lady from within the confines of her boudoir where of course her attire could be as she chose.
The lady in question, Anna the Duchess of Bedford, simply could not wait for her evening meal time and chose to order snacks of tea, bread, jams and pastries to her room.
This she did so discreetly so as not to be embarrassed by her appetite until of course she was discovered where, much to her surprise, her friends and acquaintances embraced her new habit and adopted it as their own.
Through the rest of the century and the Victorian era, afternoon tea became a social affair that was hosted by both the gentry and commoners. Groups of people gathered together to enjoy each others company and a well-brewed cuppa, or perhaps something a little stronger.
After coming out of the bedroom and into the parlours and gardens of the well-to-do the need for appropriate clothing to match the occasion arose.
Instead of lacing up in restrictive corsets or covering up in high necked velvet reception dresses ladies adopted what became known as a Tea Dress to enjoy their mid-afternoon snack.
A much more casual yet still elegant ensemble Tea Dresses were made up of two separate pieces, skirt and bustier, and were then draped over with a lace or chiffon tunic.
The tunic could be plain or embellished depending on the company you were keeping at afternoon tea that day.
The dresses allowed for one to be relaxed yet still well dressed to enjoy afternoon tea with close friends.
Of course, Tea Dresses were also seen as the height of fashion amongst younger passengers on board Titanic as restrictions in women’s wear were slowly becoming less fashionable and the casual less form fitting attire was favoured.
Changing up to four times a day, from reception dresses in the morning when they might receive guests in their quarters or on their private promenade decks.
A formal day dress to partake in leisure activities on board such as visiting the gym or attending church, then a “tea dress” to enjoy afternoon tea in Café Parisien.
After which she would de-robe yet again to change into an elegant evening gown for dinner.
The propriety of attire was always adhered to and being on board a 7 day Transatlantic cruise was no reason to leave your Tea Dress behind.
A pioneer among cruise liner cafes, Café Parisien was the first of its kind. Constructed to mirror the stylish street side cafe’s of Paris, the glamour capital of the world for as long as we care to remember.
The décor of Cafe Parisien was of crisp white walls, live English creeping ivy wound around intricate trellis work and large sea view windows which could be wound down so diners could enjoy alfresco meals.
It was a place where the wealthier clientele could enjoy leisurely drinks, nibbles and pleasant conversation. Not quite a fully formal dinner but also more formal than your private breakfast table.
The menu included a variety of dishes from Parisian and European inspiration such as consommés, salmon mousseline and cucumber sandwiches, Foie Gras, chocolate and vanilla eclairs and famously quoted;
“Linzer torte’s quite passable for a British Ship” – Colonel Zeitel
This casual entrance of Molly Brown highlights how afternoon tea was a casual and leisurely affair from which diners could come and go as they please.
Such was the nature of Café Parisienne said to be most popular with the younger crowd of the upper classes.
A typical afternoon tea
In the early days, serving afternoon tea in one’s home was a way to demonstrate your free time and therefore social status. The more prolonged the service and elaborate the food, the more well-off you were.
By the time 1914 came around afternoon tea was beginning to be recognised as a way of entertaining your friends or other social acquaintances.
A typical afternoon tea on board Titanic would have consisted of the finest ingredients.
There would have been a huge selection of freshly made or imported pastries including the previously mentioned Linzer Torte, a dessert made popular in Austrian bakeries, favoured by those who had the good fortune to travel in the 1900’s.
Small china bowls filled with fresh fruits of preserves such as tangy lemon curds and sweet strawberry jams.
Sponge cakes of all shapes and sizes including the traditional Victoria sponge and of course the popular date and plum cakes of the age.
Of course, crustless sandwiches filled with Foie Gras, cucumber, roast beef and smoked fish were also popular among the tea tables of old.
A variety of teas from English Breakfast to Oolong and Earl Grey and something a little stronger such as Champagne, ales, fine wines and even cocktails which had arrived in Britain by 1914, would be served alongside all the delicacies mentioned above.
In short, a meal fit for a king served just hours before an elegant 10-course meal!
Afternoon tea week at 30 James Street
At 30 James Street – Home of the Titanic our afternoon tea services matches the high class and quality of those served on board Titanic.
Our stunning rooftop restaurant Carpathia has been outfitted to mimic the interior of first class dining quarters on board luxury cruise liners from the 1900’s.
Afternoon tea in Carpathia is served inside or out on the terrace weather permitting and proffers diners with stunning views of the immaculate heritage water-front and across the Mersey.
Our food is lovingly crafted by skilled chefs and presented in the traditional manner upon decorative cake stands.
Diners can enjoy a selection of delicious small sandwiches, pastries and cakes all prepared on site. In keeping with the celebration of afternoon tea, we serve a selection of classic and infused teas, coffee or glasses of bubbly for special occasions.
Call and book on 0151 601 8801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about 30 James Street – Home of the Titanic.
Have a happy afternoon tea week 14th – 21st August.