‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.’
These are the words of American author Henry James in The Portrait of a Lady, and he wasn’t far wrong. In today’s busy world, there isn’t always much opportunity to indulge in this most elegant of customs - but a on a leisurely Cunard voyage, no such constraints apply.
Here we take a look at how this quintessential British repast first began - and what you can expect when it’s time to enjoy the very best afternoon tea.
An ancient custom.
While tea drinking dates back thousands of years in China, it was only when Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese Infanta, married King Charles ll in 1662 - bringing the precious leaves with her as part of her dowry - that tea consumption among the wealthy classes in Britain was first established.
However, it was almost 200 years before the concept of afternoon tea was introduced by Anna, Duchess of Bedford, who in 1840 required a little sustenance to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner.
She requested that a tray of bread and butter along with sweetmeats - including scones - and, of course, a pot of tea - be brought to her room in the late afternoon. Soon friends began to join her, and before long, afternoon tea had become a daily event in fashionable society.
Today, the time-honoured menu is much the same. Delicate finger sandwiches and savouries, warm scones with jam and clotted cream, and a selection of irresistible cakes and pastries - all served on fine china with starched linen. Food, drink and impeccable service combine to create a special occasion that never loses its charm.
A special treat.
Our elegant fleet promises the perfect environment to enjoy the ritual of afternoon tea while on holiday – the beautiful surroundings of the Queens Room, impeccable white-gloved service, and the melodic strains of a string quartet or tinkling piano.
And while most guests love all the traditional elements that constitute this classic treat, unique finishing touches and innovations ensure Cunard’s Afternoon Tea stands out from the teatime crowd.
‘For instance, there’s our Cunard Macaron which is red and black, while a specially made branding iron finishes the top of each handmade scone with the ship’s logo,’ says Pastry Development Chef Alex Wibberley. ‘It’s this attention to detail that makes the occasion on board so memorable.’
You could also have the opportunity to enjoy Cunard’s themed Afternoon Teas, such as the Japanese and Alaska Afternoon Teas inspired by these extraordinary destinations. Or if the occasion calls for a little more glamour, there’s the signature Champagne Afternoon Tea in association with Laurent-Perrier, who have also partnered with Cunard to offer a very special Afternoon Tea during Transatlantic Fashion Week.
‘It’s this attention to detail that makes the occasion on board so memorable.’
2000 Afternoon Teas are served.
6000 cups of tea are poured.
4000 finger sandwiches are made.
3000 scones are handmade from scratch.
8000 linen napkins are laundered and starched.
Afternoon Tea is served daily at 3.30pm on all of our ships.