Rather than just sit down for afternoon tea while I was in London last month, I was able to bake English classics and learn the craft and etiquette of the tradition with an expert in her beautiful Victorian home. Giuliana Orme, author of Afternoon Tea at Home Made Simple, has been offering home-baking and tea-making classes in her home for several years, providing guests with the opportunity to learn the history behind this British institution that dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria and the secrets behind the makings of the perfect afternoon tea. Our class with Giuliana began with a brief tour of her Victorian home, then it was straight to the scone and shortbread baking and specialty sandwich making. Giuliana welcomes all levels of abilities and gave detailed step-by-step instructions on how to assemble the teatime treats and desserts in her homey, quaint kitchen. With a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, the time it took our group to make the scones and cucumber sandwiches flew by, and we were soon escorted to the lovely drawing room to enjoy the fruits of our labor and learn proper tea etiquette. Over cups of hot tea, scones with homemade jam and warm conversation, we learned interesting information about the history of afternoon tea from Giuliana. The Duchess of Bedford reputedly started the institution in the 19th century as a way to fend off the hunger she felt between lunch at noon and formal dinner at 9 p.m. She would order tea, cakes and bread and butter to be served in her room and later started inviting relatives and friends over for snacks and conversation. Guiliana also showed us the beautiful china she’s aquired over the years and informed us of suggested topics of conversation for tea, such as music, food and travel. We all left full and happy with a goody bag filled with cake and scones with clotted cream and jam. If you can’t make it to Giuliana’s beautiful home for a lesson and traditional afternoon tea party, check out her book, which demystifies the tradition and includes delicious, easy-to-follow recipes to make at home. — Monique Barrett, eFlyer editor/associate editor
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