The other day I was telling you a lot about the Georgian era in the UK and the house you can visit in Edinburgh that tells how a family lived in that historic British time.
After the Georgian era, the Victorian era took place, also very famous in the British Isles. It bears the name of Queen Victoria, successor to George IV, who was the monarch who ruled during that time.
Today I am writing this post because I would like to highlight one of the best things that this era brought: afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea fashion and how to take it
In the year 1840, it became fashionable among the highest social classes in the United Kingdom to have an afternoon tea around 5pm.
At the bottom, the first tray has some elongated sandwiches without rind that have typical fillings such as egg salad, spread cheese and cucumber, ham and cheese… Because of their size and shape, they are known as finger sandwiches.
In the second tray there is usually a scone (or several) accompanied by jam and cream spread.
This meal is served on a kind of stand with three stacked trays.
Finally, the tray above, brings some small cakes that are eaten in one bite and are tremendously sweet and delicate.
Such a food feast is accompanied by a cup of your favourite tea, although people usually drink black tea or Earl Grey.
Some people compare afternoon tea to the snack tradition of Spanish-speaking countries, but the truth is that I think it has nothing to do with it, since the type of food and the amount is completely different.
Afternoon tea in Edinburgh
There are many places where this traditional food is served and its prices and characteristics are as luxurious or as affordable as the consumer wants.
Since we moved to Edinburgh (in 2013) we have enjoyed different types of afternoon tea, and the truth is that they all have one thing in common: you can never finish them!
My recommendation is to take it as if it were a midday meal, i.e. light breakfasts and around 2pm reservations to enjoy the three floors of glory.
Afternoon tea at the Royal Society of Edinburgh
On the occasion of a family celebration, the other day we were fortunate enough to go for an afternoon tea at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The beautiful building they occupy on George Street had always caught my attention powerfully, but I wasn’t sure if it could be visited or for what purpose it was used.
When I found out that during the month of August it was possible to go and enjoy an afternoon tea in the illustrious hall dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, I didn’t think twice and booked it super fast, as the number of people was limited to 8 per day. Can you imagine?
We arrived punctually at 2.30 and the team working at the Royal Society of Edinburgh welcomed us with great kindness. They took us to the lounge where we were going to enjoy our food, and before we started they offered us a glass of champagne. A real detail!
The Royal Society of Edinburgh is the Academy of Scotland which brings together the country’s scientists, scholars and scholars.
The curator of this organization gave us a short talk in which he explained to us what the Royal Society of Edinburgh does and in what ways we can participate more actively.
During the 30 minutes he was speaking I listened to him very carefully, as he was very curious to learn more. It turns out that the Royal Edinburgh Society is none other than the Academy of Scotland, where scientists, writers, scholars, and scholars meet to discuss various topics of interest.
The most curious thing about this organization is that it has about 1500 members, but you can’t sign up unless they call you first. Unbelievable, right?
In any case, although you are not a member, you can attend any of the talks they offer free of charge to the general public on various topics. Some are astronomical, others talk about technology, even writers present their book at this venue.
It is incredible to think that we had been living in Edinburgh for 6 years without realizing that there was such an interesting institution!
After the small talk, we began to enjoy our afternoon tea, and the truth is that it was delicious. Obviously, we ask for the vegetarian option and enjoy cheese, egg, and cucumber sandwiches. On the second floor, instead of having a large scone, we had two mini scones for each.
The floor of the sweetest things had among other cakes, carrot cake, small bites of cheesecake, some fresh fruit cakes that were great and a coffee cake.
The truth is that the portions were extremely generous, and as usual, I couldn’t finish it all, although Earl Grey’s teapot did.
Evidently the afternoon tea in this place was a family celebration and therefore the price we paid was higher than normal.
Other places to take Afternoon tea in Edinburgh
If during your Edinburgh trip you want to enjoy an afternoon tea in the purest Victorian style, but without throwing the house out the window, we also recommend:
Marks and Spencer
It certainly has the cheapest afternoon tea I’ve ever seen.
The sandwiches are simple but good, the scones are also fresh and tender. Probably the least I liked was the pastry part, since I could feel that they were not artisans at all.
However this detail is understandable since the price is absolutely unbeatable: 7 pounds per person!
This is definitely an interesting option for all those who are not sure if they will like it, or for travellers with tight budgets.
If you want to see a little more you can visit the M&S website.
This option is much more gourmet than the previous one and evidently that is also reflected in the price.
The afternoon tea here costs 19 pounds per person. The variety of sandwiches is much wider, with some appetizing as for example truffled chicken, salmon, etc..
Like any afternoon tea, it also includes some scones with jam and cream, as well as a selection of the most interesting pastries: small bites of raspberry cheesecake, fruit tartlets, a chocolate mousse… without a doubt it is a very attractive option but I would only recommend it for those people who are sure that they would like to enjoy this singular food.
You can see a little more about this site on their website.
In the heart of Edinburgh, within the Portrait Gallery, you will find this cafeteria which also offers its particular version of afternoon tea.
Highly priced, for 30 pounds per person you can enjoy some of the most luxurious sandwiches I’ve ever seen: smoked salmon, mustard lacon, and so on.
Without a doubt, it is worth it especially for the most gourmets!
This is one of my favourite options as it offers unbeatable views of Edinburgh if you’re lucky enough to get a table near the window.
Harvey Nichols is an expensive shopping centre located very close to Saint Andrews Square. On its highest floor hides its restaurant, and has its own version of afternoon tea for 22 pounds each.
Some of the sandwiches are quite special, such as a ham wrap, or some mini feta cheese quiches.
No matter where you drink it, it is clear that afternoon tea is one of the most British traditions of all time. It wasn’t so long ago that some friends invited us to their house to have this meal with them, and we had fun trying the sandwiches and talking about a lot of things.
Doing it at home is also an option especially if you have somewhere to go to buy the traditional ingredients.