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The Art of Afternoon Tea: From Traditional to Contemporary

Afternoon tea has long been a ceremonious British dining experience, bringing people together through its charming and chic nature. The concept itself was originally derived in the 19th century to quell that awkward hunger between lunch and dinner, but has since evolved into an inventive and trendy dining art-form. The world of patisserie and baking has recently taken to new heights in terms of flavour and imagination. Not to mention the infinite world of wonderful tea blends that seems ever-growing. What was once a light mid-day meal is now shaping up as a dining form that allows you to enjoy a wide array of different flavours, presented in unique forms, all in one meal.

Finger Sandwiches

Traditionally, finger sandwiches have been light in flavour and substance. Combinations of cucumber and butter, egg and mayonnaise, smoked salmon with cream cheese, and others recipes were famous for their light palatability, and for not being so heavy to have hours before dinner.

But as food and baking culture evolved, so have finger sandwiches. Breads come in more variety now, allowing for exquisite sandwich presentation. Unique fillings and sauces are being invented daily, allowing for a fundamental change in taste or even cuisine. Garnishes have stemmed to make food and finger sandwiches even more of an art. The levels of intricacy involved in crafting what was once a simple sandwich, has now made afternoon tea an even more attractive and unique dining experience.


Once combined with a dollop of clotted cream and jam, the buttery and fluffiness of a scone makes it, for me, the best part of afternoon tea. Why? There are few combinations in traditional English cuisine better than a crumbly scone with a warm cup of tea. Their balanced buttery taste makes them the perfect nibble in between a savoury and sweet palate, such is why they have traditionally fit so perfectly in the middle tier of the platter, interlinking finger sandwiches and bite-sized cakes. However, nowadays we are fortunate enough to have an ever-more enticing and explorative range of both savoury and sweet scones.

Savoury scones have helped merge the world of sweet and savoury in a new tasty way. Flavours from all cuisines encased in the moist crumbliness of a scone has added a new inventive dimension to afternoon tea, and afternoon snacking generally. If you are interested, you can find our favourite savoury scone recipes in our Top 10 Savoury Scones guide.

There’s a sweet scone and tea blend combination to suit any tastebud. Whether its a lemon and blueberry scone with a cup of lemon-infused lady grey, or a rose and pistachio scone with a cup of rosebuds tea, the possibilities are endless. Let us know your favourite by sharing your go to scone and tea blend combination in the comments!

From bitesized cakes to fine patisserie

Traditional sponge cakes have always topped off the afternoon tea platter, and experience as a whole. Recipes like Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle, and carrot & walnut won’t ever go out of fashion, that’s why they, alongside the butter scone, remain to be one of the few traditional remnants on the contemporary afternoon tea platter. But the world of French patisserie has found its place next to these esteemed recipes. Recipes like the opera gateau, eclairs and macarons have added more indulgence and richness to the sweet element of afternoon tea, and a further artistic charm through colour, texture and decoration, making for an even prettier picture.

How will it change from here? We will ensure it continues to grow as it has done.

The charm of traditional afternoon teas will never be lost, it will always have its place in the dining world due its ceremonious nature. But contemporary afternoon tea has evolved into something that innovates and elevates standards in food culture. Its general artistic and picturesque nature will continue to provide a platform for further innovation in food, and tea. We, Candella Tea Room, hope to continue evolving the culture by offering a variety of afternoon tea options, exploring food culture and cuisine combinations to its fullest. To stay up to date with our ideas, just subscribe to our weekly blog post.

Thank you for reading!

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