Afternoon tea back on the menu as Britain gets ready for the Queen’s summer birthday celebrations

3 May 2016

One of England’s quaintest traditions, afternoon tea, has been revived by a new generation of Brits – in time for the Queen’s birthday celebrations in June.

  • Tesco shoppers bought 4.5 million more luxury cream cakes in 2015 than the year before
  • Demand for speciality tea is up by 4 per cent in the last year
  • Nearly a quarter more Brits having cream tea with friends than a year ago*
  • Revival has also been helped by Great British Bake Off with half a million more regular cream cake customers than before the show first aired*

One of England’s quaintest traditions, afternoon tea, has been revived by a new generation of Brits – in time for the Queen’s birthday celebrations in June.

Once considered dated, demand for speciality tea and cream cakes is once again on the rise, helped by the huge popularity of TV’s Great British Bake Off.

In the last year sales of typical afternoon tea related foods and kitchen items at Tesco have soared including:

  • Tesco finest* cream cakes –4.5 million more sold
  • The classic Battenberg cake – up 45 per cent
  • Speciality teas like Earl Grey, Assam, Darjeeling  – up nearly four per cent which is the equivalent of 250,000 packets

Now to meet the growing demand Tesco has this week launched a new range of innovative upmarket afternoon tea cakes, gateaux, tarts, meringues, sponges, roulades, brownies and cream slices.

They include an Alfonso mango and passion fruit tart; finest*heritage raspberry and almond tart; and Belgian chocolate and salted caramel tart.

A number of tea time favourites have been given a surprise twist such as the lemon tart which has been hand decorated with lemon cream, a white chocolate scroll and dusted with sherbet to heighten the zesty taste.

Tesco cake range buyer Rosie Bambaji said:

“Afternoon tea is one of Britain’s greatest culinary traditions.

We know many of our customers have fallen in love with this special occasion once again so we wanted to help spruce up cake stands across the country with a new range of decadent cakes.

The trend took off in hotels and restaurants thanks to the huge popularity of shows like The Great British Bake Off and afternoon tea has once again established itself as an occasion at home,with shoppers treating friends and family to delicious cakes at informal get togethers.”   

Other traditional afternoon tea treats that have recently grown in popularity include:

  • Apple turnovers – demand in last year up 35 per cent
  • Strawberry and cream slices – up 30 per cent
  • Custard tarts – up 15 per cent
  • Fresh cream profiteroles – up 10 per cent

Tesco has also seen a rise in popularity for cake accessories like cake stands, bakeware and tea sets.

Note to editors

*Revival of cream tea occasions – 22 per cent more of us claim to be having more cream teas with friends than 12 months ago (Talking Foods Survey Nov’15)

*Cream cakes more popular now than before Great British Bake Off started – cream cake has half a million more shoppers than 5 years ago (KWP 52wks March ’16 vs March ’11)

A brief history of afternoon tea

  • Anna, Duchess of Bedford is credited with having invented afternoon tea in 1840, simply as a means of staving off hunger before supper. She instructed her butler to bring her bread, butter and tea and then began inviting her friends round to join her.
  • The event soon developed into an occasion to enjoy hearing about the latest fashions, rumour and scandals and soon became a social trend across the country.
  • As the trend caught on the Aerated Bread Company – or ABC as it became known – opened Britain’s first tea room, in London, in 1864.
  • During the 1880s society women would dress up for the occasion of afternoon by wearing long gowns, gloves and hats which would be served between 4pm and 5pm.