Afternoon Tea

Over the last decade, the afternoon tea has come back into fashion. No longer the preserve of the wealthy, these teas are now on every high street in the land. The typical afternoon tea involves sandwiches, lots of cake and, of course, tea.

Another reason that so many pubs, cafes and restaurants now offer afternoon tea is that it is cheap to make, and the high prices mean it is very profitable. A quick online search shows me that Fortnum & Mason charge £120 while The Millstone are selling vouchers for £280.

The sandwiches are usually ham or cheese (or salmon if it is somewhere fancy) and often very small. The cakes are scones and there will always be a huge variety of teas. Despite the huge variety, people will almost always choose breakfast tea.

At the posh hotel, afternoon tea is very popular. We are encouraged to give ‘service plus’ to the afternoon tea customers (whatever that means) rather than the normal lunch customers who presumably just get ‘service’. The main difference between the two groups, afternoon tea and lunch, is that the tea customers get tablecloths. On the four sunny afternoons we get per year, there will be the option to eat outside, along with the wasps.

Most places will provide takeaway boxes so the excess cakes can be taken home although we prefer them to be left behind so we can take them back into the kitchen and eat them ourselves.

A fun game we like to play with our afternoon tea customers is trying to predict which of the following conversations will happen first:

  • Is it pronounced scone (rhymes with gone) or scone (rhymes with bone)?
  • Which goes on first – jam or cream?
Is this worth £59?

These two conversations happen at every table, every day during the afternoon tea service. Sometimes they get quite heated and a waiter gets summoned to settle the argument. Some people think it is cream first as it is a butter substitute, others think it is jam first as the jam stops the cream from sliding off. We now serve the scones plain, with the jam and cream in small pots, following complaints they were being served ‘wrong’.

To be honest, I couldn’t care less about these discussions. Do what you like. Its only cake.

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