b'EPICURE THE CARNEGIE CLUBA F T E R N O O ND E L I G H TWith the finest teas, dainty sandwiches and delicate patisserie, afternoon tea at Skibo faithfully upholds the charming British tradition WORDS Victoria ConnorH enry James 1881 novel The PortraitTea should first be handed to the lady of theaffair and the serving style harks back to of a Lady highest rank, then to the married womenthe rituals earliest incarnation. Less fussybegins, Under certain circumstances there are few hoursand then the single ladies. Only once all herand more relaxed than the now ubiquitous in life more agreeable than the hour dedicatedguests had been served should the hostessout afternoon tea, members will find to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.take a teacup. With at-home afternoon teasplatters of finger sandwiches and towers of This quintessentially British pastime traces itsgrowing in popularity, businesses took note.tempting treats atop the antique piano and origins back to 1840 when, while visitingThe Langham hotel in London began offeringare encouraged to help themselves before2 3 Belvoir Castle, it is said that Anna Mariaafternoon tea in 1865, The Savoy in 1889, andtaking a seat on one of the comfortable sofas3 3 Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, found thatThe Ritz in 1906. At the same time, hundredswhile a butler pours their libation of choice.between luncheon and dinner her stomachof tea shops opened across the country,This traditional approach is what makes had that sinking feeling. To alleviate this, sheincluding Miss Cranstons Willow Tea Roomafternoon tea at Skibo so special, says the began ordering a light refreshment of tea andin Glasgow, and Bettys in Harrogate. TheClubs food and beverage manager, Diane cake to be brought to her and was soon joinedout afternoon tea was even more formal thanMunro. Afternoon tea today is served very in her afternoon ritual by friends. And thus,its at-home companion, served restaurant- much as it would have been 100 years ago, according to legend, afternoon tea was born.style by waiters in a dining room, and itand its a wonderful opportunity for the Clubs Anna was of course unlikely to be the firstshaped the ritual as we recognise it now. members to unwind and catch up with each person to have sated her growling stomachAt Skibo today, in keeping with the Clubsother after a day of activity out on the estate. mid-afternoon, but as a member of theaim to foster the atmosphere of an EdwardianAfternoon tea at Skibo is servedjust aristocracy, and friend of Queen Victoria,house party, afternoon tea is a communalas it was a century agoin the castles she was incredibly influential. Anna continuedDrawing Room. It was there that the lady of to enjoy afternoon tea when she returned tothe house, Louise Whitfield Carnegie, poured London, and soon the fashion spread fartea and entertained her guests, including beyond her own social circle.King Edward VII who visited in 1902 and For society ladies at home betweentook his tea just as Louise didwith no milk /Getty Images Helen Cathcart; Hulton Archive4pm and 7pm, serving afternoon tea to theirand a slice of lemon. Today, it is front-of- guests soon became de rigueur. The etiquettehouse butler Caroline Macdonald who was strict. A white tablecloth was spreadensures that teacups remain filled, cake on a table in the drawing room, on whichstands are replenished and that a convivial the teapots, milk and sugar were placedtime is had by all. along with plates of thinly sliced breadDuring holiday periods, special family and butter, sandwiches and fancy cakes.afternoon teas are offered in the library so Dainty side plates were available so thatthat children and their parents can enjoy guests could help themselves to the food,tucking into the festive offeringsfrom but the tea was to be poured by either thesimnel cake at Easter to snowman macarons hostess or one of her servants.at Christmasin a more informal setting.'