The British tend to make the most of the limited number of dry, tranquil summer days and, bearing in mind the many health benefits of being out in the sun, take great pleasure in dining outdoors. This may take the form of a barbecue on the patio, a picnic, tea on the lawn, or even a Royal Garden Party.
‘Afternoon tea’ is a British custom dating from the 1840s, when the new-fangled gas lighting encouraged townsfolk to have dinner at a later hour. The consequent hunger pangs at around 4.30pm were quelled with some tea and cake, biscuits, scones or bread-and-butter. This little ritual soon made its way to the lawn in the summer and although it was apparently a Duchess’s idea, the masses took to it gladly.
Just two decades later, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was hosting afternoon tea al fresco on a grand scale at Buckingham Palace. These Royal Garden Parties have become a regular feature, with three occurring every May. Originally for the aristocracy only, invitees now include commendable citizens. The game of cricket has incorporated a break for tea into every match (except the short formats) and tea-rooms open up their outdoor seating areas whenever the weather permits.
(Image: Michael Garlick at geograph.org.uk / CC BY-SA 2.0)