Afternoon Tea in Suffolk: A Delightful Tradition

Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition that has been enjoyed since the 1840’s. Suffolk, located on the east coast of England, is an ideal place to indulge in this delightful experience.

From traditional tea rooms and quaint, themed tea shops to grand hotels such as Hintlesham Hall, Suffolk has a variety of places to enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea. In this blog post, we will explore the history of afternoon tea, the key components of an afternoon tea, where to go for an afternoon tea in Suffolk and the latest trends in this classic tradition.

Afternoon Tea in Suffolk

History of Afternoon Tea

We all know what an ‘afternoon tea’ is, but have you ever pondered where this delightful tradition came from, or even why? Well, if you haven’t let’s start here.

Afternoon tea is said to have been invented by Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the mid-19th century.

During this time, it was customary to have only two main meals a day: breakfast and dinner, with dinner served much later than what we are accustomed today (between 8:00 and 9:00pm).

The Duchess is said to have found herself feeling hungry in the late afternoon and began to have a light meal of tea, sandwiches, and cakes in her private chambers – on occasion inviting a few of her friends to join her. This new social soiree soon caught on among the upper classes.

Cakes at Afternoon Tea

The Key Components of Afternoon Tea

The key components of an afternoon tea are a pot of tea, crustless finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a final course of cakes, and pastries.

What is interesting to note, is that afternoon teas are not regional, they are standard across the UK and don’t vary from county to county.

In Suffolk, traditional afternoon tea typically includes a selection of loose-leaf teas, such as English breakfast or Earl Grey, served with milk and sugar (though for Earl Grey, many prefer no milk, and possibly lemon). These days most establishments will also offer a choice of fruit teas in addition to traditional loose tea.

Finger sandwiches with fillings such as cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill, and ham and mustard are served, as well as freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam. A selection of cakes and pastries, such as macarons, eclairs, and fruit tarts, completes the feast.

How is Afternoon Tea Served?

Typically afternoon tea is presented in an elegant and visually appalling way on a three-tiered cake stand. The top tier presents cakes, macaroons, petits fours and pastries, in the middle you’ll often find scones, and crustless finger sandwiches house the bottom.

Interestingly, the origin of using a three tier cake stand for serving afternoon tea is unknown! It is common belief that this stems from the Victorian era, however, no one person has been credited with inventing it.

Presentation is key as serving an afternoon tea in a tiered formation enables you to see and appreciate the culinary delights in front of you, which is very much a work of art.

Cake tiers vary in the material they are made from, you may be served your afternoon tea in Suffolk on a porcelain, bone china or silver stand. Some porcelain and bone china cake stands may be plain, others decorated with intricate patterns and designs.

Your cake stand will be placed in front of you on a table where you will help yourself and eat from decorative plates, tea cups and saucers. Tea is traditionally loose leaf and served from a teapot with either a tea strainer or infuser to catch the leaves and served in a separate milk jug.

The presentation of your afternoon tea is an important component of the experience, this is all about grandeur, luxury, elegance and sophistication. A real treat.

Trends in Afternoon Tea

In recent years, there has been a trend towards more modern and innovative afternoon teas. The likes of Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland have brought a contemporary twist to the ‘traditional’ afternoon tea, with some venues now serving savoury afternoon teas with dishes such as quiches, tartlets, and savoury scones.

Our evolutionary changes in dietary requirements have also made their way to the cake tier with most establishments catering to a wider range of dietary requirements these days, such as vegan and gluten-free afternoon teas, which have gained in popularity.

Many venues also offer champagne or cocktail afternoon teas, making it a truly luxurious (and often more fun!) experience.

Why Location and Venue is a Key Aspect of Afternoon Tea

Location and venue play an important role in creating the perfect afternoon tea experience. The setting and scenery can set the tone, creating a memorable atmosphere that adds to the overall enjoyment of the occasion.

For example, a traditional afternoon tea served in a historic building, such as Hintlesham Hall, can transport guests back in time and create a sense of historical elegance and sophistication. Alternatively, an afternoon tea served in a modern, trendy location can be perfect for those looking for a more contemporary twist on this classic tradition.

The setting of the venue is also important. Whether it’s a cosy and intimate tea room, a bright and airy garden, or a grand and spacious dining room, the surroundings can set the mood and create a sense of relaxation and indulgence.A carefully selected location can make the experience feel special and unique, and help to create lasting memories.

5 Best Afternoon Teas in and Around Ipswich, Suffolk

1. Hintlesham Hall

Experience a quintessentially English afternoon tea at Hintlesham Hotel, served in one of their stately and traditional lounges or outdoors overlooking the secluded grounds. This traditional and delicious afternoon tea in Suffolk is perfect for those looking for a classic tea experience.

Indulge in their renowned afternoon tea, featuring a selection of leaf teas, tisanes, grand cru coffees, and hot chocolates, along with a selection of sandwiches, homemade scones, and cakes. For those looking to add a touch of luxury to their tea experience, Hintlesham Hotel offers a specially selected Laurent Perrier Champagne flight, with three 50ml glasses paired with the tea selection, sandwiches, scones, and cakes.

2. Nora’s Tea Room – Ipswich

Nora’s Tea Room is a 1940’s style tea room located in The Shed, which offers traditional afternoon teas that must be booked in advance. Guests can enjoy finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and preserve, cakes and fancies, and unlimited tea or coffee.The Shed is a unique antique shop, with four showrooms full of treasures, and Nora’s Tea Room offers a charming ambiance for indulging in a leisurely afternoon tea.

3.The Blitz 1940’s Tea Rooms

Experience a blast from the past at The Blitz 1940’s Tea Rooms, where you’ll be transported back in time to wartime Britain.

Along with themed decor, this venue also serves up delicious afternoon tea that includes a choice of sandwich, either a Scotch egg or sausage roll, fruit scone with jam and cream, and a choice of cake per person, along with tea and coffee including free refills. The Blitz 1940’s Tea Rooms provides an unforgettable afternoon tea experience that celebrates nostalgia and history.

4.Suffolk Food Hall

Enjoy a memorable afternoon tea at Suffolk’s Food Hall’s restaurant. Choose from traditional, vegetarian, or vegan options, with gluten-free and dairy-free variations available. Afternoon tea includes a range of sandwiches, cakes, savouries, a fruit scone with cream and jam, and tea or coffee. The Suffolk Food Hall is committed to sourcing local produce and promoting provenance. Afternoon teas are served Wednesday to Sunday.

5. Milsoms Kesgrave Hall

Located in the serene eastern outskirts of Ipswich, Milsoms Kesgrave Hall offers a luxurious afternoon tea in the indoor fine-dining restaurant or outside on the extensive terrace. Their full tea includes a selection of sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a tempting array of cakes. For an extra special treat, guests can upgrade to a Champagne Afternoon Tea.

The Delightful Tradition of Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a delightful tradition that looks like it is here to stay. Whether you prefer a traditional or modern afternoon tea, Suffolk has a variety of venues to choose from.

Are you visiting Ipswich, and veering towards tradition, splendour, grandeur and luxury, when looking for a luxurious afternoon tea experience in Suffolk? Look no further than Hintlesham Hall Hotel where you can enjoy a quintessentially English afternoon tea served either indoors or out. Decadence at its very best!

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