What Does the King Eat at Afternoon Tea?

The elegant tradition of afternoon tea, rooted in British culture, is often associated with high society and nobility. But the most intriguing question about this timeless ritual is: What might grace the tea table of a King?

Delve deeper into the royal kitchens, discover the elaborate treats, and address everyday curiosities surrounding the King’s afternoon tea.

A Brief Regal History

The origin of afternoon tea traces back to the early 1840s, thanks to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. As the story goes, the Duchess felt peckish in the late afternoon and requested a light meal to tide her over until dinner. This habit caught on amongst the elite; soon, even the royals were partaking in this delightful repast.

Royal Sandwiches: More Than Just Bread and Butter

Each sandwich is a culinary masterpiece, blending flavors, textures, and the freshest of ingredients:

  • Salmon and Caviar: Delicate slices of smoked salmon, sourced from the cold waters of Scotland, layered on freshly buttered, whole-grain brown bread. Each piece is then topped with a generous dollop of the finest black caviar, offering a salty contrast that dances on the palate.
  • Roast Beef and Horseradish: Tender, slow-cooked roast beef is sliced paper-thin and laid atop artisanal white bread. Accompanied by a robust horseradish cream, the sandwich perfectly balances meaty richness and spicy zing.
  • Coronation Chicken: A splendid mix of roasted chicken, subtly spiced with curry powder, dried fruits, and velvety mayonnaise. This regal filling is generously spread between slices of soft bread, recounting tales of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation.

Scones and Pastries: The Royal Baker’s Pride

scones pastries afternoon tea

Scones and pastries from the royal kitchen are nothing short of baked perfection:

  • Traditional Scones: Made using a guarded recipe, these scones boast a golden crust and a fluffy interior. Best savored with dollops of rich Cornish clotted cream and preserves made from handpicked strawberries.
  • Fruit Tartlets: These mini tartlets feature a crisp pastry base with velvety custard. Each tartlet is adorned with the day’s freshest berries and fruits, glazed to perfection.
  • Eclairs: These oblong pastries, made with choux dough, are piped with a luxuriant vanilla-infused cream. A glossy chocolate ganache, both rich and bittersweet, generously coats the top.

Cakes and Sweets: The Pinnacle of Indulgence

The royal pastry chefs craft desserts that are both a visual and gastronomic delight:

  • Battenberg Cake: This visually stunning cake boasts alternating squares of tender pink and yellow sponge. The entire cake is then enveloped in a layer of marzipan, recounting stories from royal weddings past.
  • Chocolate Ganache Tarts: Featuring a buttery, crumbly tart shell filled with a silky chocolate ganache. Each bite is a deep dive into chocolatey heaven made from the finest cocoa beans.
  • Lemon Drizzle Cake: A moist sponge cake enriched with the zest of sun-kissed lemons and then generously drizzled with tangy lemon syrup, making every bite a play of sweet and sour.

Royal Tea Selection: Brewed to Perfection

The tea, an essence of the ritual, is chosen from the world’s most revered estates. Whether it’s the floral notes of a Darjeeling, the citrusy undertones of Earl Grey, or the malty depth of Assam, each cup is a voyage through tea gardens, served with precision.

Did Kings traditionally partake in afternoon tea?

While Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, popularized the tradition, it quickly became fashionable among the elite, including the royal family. Like other members of the royal household, kings would often indulge in this refined ritual.

Has the afternoon tea menu changed over time for the royals?

Yes, like all culinary traditions, royal afternoon tea has evolved. While many staples remain, chefs occasionally introduce modern twists or use ingredients sourced from the Commonwealth or other regions.

Do contemporary Kings still observe afternoon tea?

While it’s a cherished tradition, not all modern royals or Kings may practice it daily. However, afternoon tea is still significant, especially during official ceremonies or gatherings.

Is the royal afternoon tea open to the public?

The royals occasionally host garden parties or events where selected public members can experience a royal-style afternoon tea. However, daily royal teas remain a private affair.