How Very Curious!

As a little girl, I adored hosting my own tea parties. I badgered friends and family alike into pouring cold water into porcelain cups more fit for a child's hands than an adult's. The "tea" would be paired with Oreos, of course––either imaginary or fake! Memories like these, along with tea parties held at actual tea houses and elsewhere, are among my most cherished. And as you can tell, I never grew out of that love! When there's an opportunity, I love carving out space in my afternoon to sit with a cup of tea and treat and be.

One of my favorite aspects of afternoon tea is how it's treated as a special occasion, an hour of beauty for your life. I'm a major ~*Romanticizing Your Life*~ girl, and a big believer in finding ways to make each day special, both large or small. Sitting down with your favorite cuppa is just one (lovely) way.

In my cottage, everyday is an excuse for a mad tea party, and you're all invited!

The History of Afternoon Tea

The invention of afternoon tea can be accredited to the woman, the myth, the legend, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, my sister in hypoglycemic solidarity, Anna Maria Russell.

Let's pay our respects and acknowledge an important truth: we're not worthy of the genius it took for her to say, "hey, there should be a snack between lunch and dinner!" Life was, is, and will never the same since.

Like, for real.

In the 19th century, England went through a period of rapid industrialization. This led to a change in the hours meals were taken. For the upper, wealthier class, who did not have to labor from sunrise and sundown (and thus eat in accordance to these working hours), dinner was pushed back to around 9:00 PM. The results were a large gap of time between then and lunchtime early in the afternoon.

Our queen Anna was pissed about this--and as a fellow low blood sugary girlie, understandably so. Eventually she had enough of what she had described as a "sinking feeling", and requested some "tea, bread and butter, and cake" for a late afternoon snack.

Queen Anna Maria Russell inadvertently birthed a legend that caught on fire in Victorian England. Let's be real–-who doesn't love an excuse to eat cake, drink tea, and indulge in a little gossip? Tea drinking was deeply ingrained in English culture already at this period of time, and for the women part-taking in afternoon tea, it also became a chance to express your style and identity with fancy tableware, linens, and tea blends.

A super interesting point that Tasha Marks, the food historian that wrote the main article I'm sourcing my info from, makes is that afternoon tea served as an act of freedom and early feminism for these 19th century women. She states that they were allowed to entertain "mixed company" without the presence of their husbands, making it a liberating act. This extends to their clothing as well; during tea, women often wore more lightweight, comfortable clothing free of excessive boning. Afternoon tea thus became a period where women could find freedom of movement and thought, exchanging ideas and opinion with one another.

Marks goes into even deeper detail about the history of afternoon tea, so give it a read!: The Tea-rific History of Afternoon Tea

Tea Culture and Traditions

  • Tea's country of origin is China. While there is little exact information of when it was first consumed, there is record of it as far back to the first century. Beginning in the fifth century, tea was being imported into different by merchants trading in China.

    The beverage grew to be so fashionable that these merchants commissioned poet Lu Yu to write about the drink. Titled The Classic of Tea, it was the world's very first monograph on tea. Yu's work laid the foundation tea cultures and tradition.
  • The first public tea houses sprung up in China during the Tang dynasty, early as the 7th century. The atmospheres of each would vary.
  • The Japanese tea ceremony, or Chanoyu or Chado, can be translated to "The Way of Tea." Its origins lie as a Zen Buddhist ritual, adapting and developing over time. More than just drinking tea, the components of the tea ceremony has had a great influence on Japan's fine arts culture.
  • Turkey has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, making it a massive cultural touchstone. Turkish tea gardens are an example of this––leisurely spaces where groups across generations can come and socialize.

Brewing the Ideal Cup of Loose Leaf Tea

Not all tea types are the built the same. Black, white, green, yellow, oolong, and herbal teas each have unique brewing specifications. This is especially true regarding loose leaf tea, which is finickier than tea bags. Loose leaf tea, however, is typically of greater quality than bagged tea, thanks to the rounder flavor and freshness.

There's no need to be scared of preparing it, either! Feel free to refer back to this little cheatsheet to help you!

Tea Type Water Temperature Steep Time
Black 205°- 212°F, or boiling 3-5 minutes
White 175°-180°F, or steaming 2-3 minutes
Green 140°-180°F, depending on how mellow or intense you like the flavor About 2 minutes
Yellow 165°-180°F 2-3 minutes
Oolong 195°F, or almost boiling Oolongs vary more than many other teas, so between 1-4. Check your tea's instructions!
Herbal 212°F, or boiling 5-10 minutes

Tea Time Recipes

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

(Original recipe from Refined & Dandy)
Because the recipe is from an external site, I won't repost the ingredients and directions. However, I will say that you can't go wrong with adding more earl grey! When I originally made these cookies, the tea flavor was a bit too my subtle for my taste, so don't be afraid to include more leaves!

Ham and Apricot Tea Sandwiches (Picture Coming Soon!)

A sweet and savory favorite of mine that's reminiscent of the classic Monte Cristo sandwich!


  • Hawaiian Sweet Bread or your favorite artisan bread
  • Ham--your favorite deli kind! Thin or thickly sliced, it doesn't matter as long as its high quality!
  • Apricot perserves
  • Optional: Gouda or Swiss cheese


  1. Layer your first slice of bread with cheese (if you're including it), and then ham.
  2. Add your apricot preserves atop the ham. Putting it in the middle will prevent soggy bread.
  3. Layer the second bread slice with cheese and ham, and sandwich it together!
  4. Slice your sandwich diagonally into two triangles. Cut the crusts off.

Bon appetite!!

Interesting Teahouses

Iconic Tea Parties

The Mad Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland

Who would I be if I didn't include THE tea party to rule them all, the Mad Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland. This webpage's aesthetic sensibilities are modeled after it, along with like... the fairy palace afternoon tea of my dreams lol.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is one of the most famous children's lit books of all time, and there's been a billion and one adaptions and rifts since its publication--including theme park rides! Imagine being that famous! Here's a snippet of the version in the Disney movie.

Here's a link to the Mad Tea Party chapter in the book if that's more your speed!

Anyway, two things that stand out to me:

1. I appreciate how like... chill Alice is about her circumstances lmao. She hops from one sequence to another, put through variable forms of physical and psychological horrors, and comes out of each relatively unscathed. And yet, her frustration seems to reach its apex when she gets sick of the Mad Hatter's rhetoric and calls his tea party the stupidest she's ever been to. Honestly, rhetoric CAN be annyoing, so who can blame her?

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published after Anna Maria Russell's invention of the Victorian afternoon tea party. With all this in mind, the scene almost comes across as satire of the custom. Crazy coincidence! I think not!! Checkmate, Mr. Carroll!!

Anne Shirley's Disastrous Tea Party from Anne of Green Gables

Anne Shirley my beloved. Your antics never fail to amuse and sadden me. Not to mention the tragedy of finally making the "bosom friend" you dreamt of, only to get her drunk accidentally, and for her overprotective mother who never liked you to ban you from seeing her.

In another timeline, I'd love to see the full tea party. LM Montgomery, I know it's been a 115 years since you published your novel, but would you consider releasing the secret AU version of this I know you stuck in a desk somewhere?

A Floating Afternoon Tea from Mary Poppins

Continuing the Disney theme, I can't NOT spotlight the floating tea party scene that happens to be in my favorite Disney movie, Mary Poppins. Is it my favorite because it spotlights not one, but TWO (2) tea parties?! I'll leave you to figure it out!

First of all, I gotta shout out my boy Stephen Bylth for recording this on his phone. Really nice camerawork and framing here. It also holds the distinction of being the highest quality upload of this scene on Youtube, on account of being the only one.

For real though, Mary Poppins is like the queen of my heart AND my aunt AND who I aspire to be someday, so I'm delighted to see her anytime, including this screenception that's happening here. Thank you Stephenfor your good work.

The Boston Tea Party

Come on, I'm not WRONG about this being iconic. Shoutout to Little Sarah for being disappointed over it not being a REAL tea party (though, I guess that's subjective).

Afternoon Tea Pixel Club

With all this talk of tea, you must wanna try some! And what better place than the Afternoon Tea club's scrumptious smorgasbord where you are sure to find something to tantalize your tastebuds!
Below is a sampling of the many flavors the club has to offer. Please visit yourself if you're still thirsty for more!

Treat Box

You're more than welcomed to take your favorite treats home with you, but please link back to the original creators!




Tea: A Global History by Helen Saberi