Finger-food for thought: why we have afternoon teas.

From an evolutionary perspective, fattening up for winter is imperative if we are to stay warm, and it is therefore only natural that we should be hankering for afternoon teas in Autumn as intensely as we hunt for a mate in Spring. It was this deep-rooted, almost primal instinct to indulge in an afternoon tea that got me pondering the philosophical question: why is it that we have afternoon teas?

The afternoon tea is, essentially, a survival technique. It was not long after the industrial revolution had set in that the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, discovered a new kind of fuel. In 1840, Anna cured her rumbling stomach from the lengthy gap between breakfast and dinner with a tray of tea, bread and butter at 4 O’clock. This 4pm snack became an event where bread and butter was substituted for cake, shared with her friends, and the rest is history.

What was originally intended to cure the ominous, otherworldly noises issued from Anna’s stomach, now embodies everything that is cultured and refined.


Little fingers lifted, dainty china teacups, delicate paper doilies protecting les petits morceaux alimentaires from being associated with common, china-touching food – all crafty means of disguising the animalistic impulse from whence the afternoon tea sprung.


So you can now decide to throw down your silver spoons, rip apart your fine mesh paper doilies, and tear off your clothes. Or, you can indulge in all the excesses of that 4pm repast this autumn, fatten up for winter and save some money on your fuel bill.

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