Tea & Tradition

The perfect way to slow down: With a selection of delicious new culinary creations, the quintessentially English tradition of afternoon tea is celebrating a comeback at Althoff Hotels. Inspired by heritage recipes and a multitude of different flavours.

Afternoon tea is probably the most elegant way to travel back in time. The light meal consisting of delicious canapés served with fragrant tea can truly make the world stand still for a moment. This tradition is also very important at St. James’s Hotel & Club in London, even forming part of the very fabric of the hotel. So let’s travel back to Victorian England, where teatime was invented by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. Looking for a way to bridge the time between lunch and dinner, Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, had a cup of tea and a small snack brought to her in the afternoon, which she naturally began to offer her guests as well. The idea was so well received that Lady Bedford’s teatime soon became a cherished tradition among Britain’s aristocracy.

In the late 1840s, the royal household began to organise its own daily afternoon get-togethers. Afternoon tea is mentioned over seven thousand times in Queen Victoria’s diaries, underlining her fondness for the tradition. Also in 1840, Charles Elmé Francatelli, an Englishman of Italian descent, became chief cook to Queen Victoria. He recorded his recipes in a cookbook, published in 1846, which contained many references to Queen Victoria and to German cuisine, due to her husband Prince Albert’s German origins. After leaving his post at the royal court, Francatelli became manager at St. James’s Club, later revived under the name St. James’s Club and Hotel – today the Althoff St. James’s Hotel & Club.

St. James Hotel Club Tea Time

This brings us back to the present. To revive the traditions of bygone times, William Drabble, the St. James’s executive chef, has created an afternoon tea menu together with the chefs of the Althoff COLLECTION – inspired by the original recipes of former cook to the queen Charles Elmé Francatelli. The dishes include delicate scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, profiteroles with chocolate mousse and cherries, and crumble with apple and cinnamon compote. Savoury alternatives are also available, such as muffins with Alpine cheese and herb-crusted ham or smoked salmon sandwiches. Served with fine Roederer champagne and, of course, a selection of teas.

With this exquisite menu, the Althoff COLLECTION bows to the tradition of British teatime – the scene of many stories and anecdotes in its homeland. Take, for example, the legendary London tea rooms, where intellectuals, poets and artists once discussed new ideas. The writer Ayn Rand even described the tea ritual as “an invaluable contribution to civilisation”.

Tea Time
Tea Time

Even today, subdued lighting, custom-made Rosenthal porcelain and the soft clink of silver cutlery lend the afternoon tea at St. James’s Hotel & Club an aura of noble serenity. Tea naturally plays an important role as well. The London-based East India Company has even created a special black tea blend, the St. James’s Blend, exclusively for the hotel.

This extraordinary experience – and the exclusive tea – is available not only in London, but also at our hotels Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, Althoff Hotel Fürstenhof Celle and AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa. The tradition of afternoon tea is a wonderful opportunity to indulge in good conversation accompanied by tea and a delicious light meal. A refuge of luxury and tranquillity from our hectic everyday lives. Or, as the writer Henry James once said: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

"People are enjoying the story behind it, and obviously the cakes and sandwiches especially the St James ham with albert chutney and the filbert cake with the amaretto glaze seem to be favourites.” - William Drabble, renowned head chef at the Francatelli restaurant in the Althoff St. James's Hotel & Club