Treat Yourself To A Brew-tiful Afternoon Tea
The concept of "afternoon tea" dates from the 1830s, when the 7th Duchess of Bedford decided to entertain her friends with refreshments between lunch and dinner. And it's one of those traditions that has gone from strength to strength over the centuries. With shows like the Great British Bake Off on BBC1 putting baking and entertaining back into the spotlight, enjoying a scone or piece of cake with a cup of tea - be it Earl Grey or Darjeeling - is no longer an old fashioned experience.
To add milk or not to add milk?: The basic "rule" is that the lighter and more delicate the tea, the less likely it is to need milk. So try it first and then add it later if you need it.
So to celebrate this British tradition we've got a range of deals going for our Afternoon Tea Fortnight. And like the way we take our tea, everyone has different tastes - so in some cases we've blended afternoon tea with some other experiences so you can have a bit more variety with your cuppa and cake. In the spirit of trying something different, we channelled our best WI skills and headed off to try a blooming brilliant new tea experience.
Pink afternoon tea and pink flower arranging
Business partners and friends Karen and Michelle are living proof that if you have a dream, you should go for it. Qualified florists and teachers; they decided to set up their own shop and teaching centre, The Flower Academy, in leafy Buckinghamshire (only a 25 trip from Paddington). From the moment we arrived, we were warmly greeted and shepherded through the shop into a specially created classroom at the back (which even has a table that rises for the actual flower arranging part). Having never seen someone demonstrating flower arranging before, I had no idea what to expect, but it soon became clear there was a lot more to it then I thought. In demonstrator Karen's capable hands we were soon taken through the history of arranging and some of the "science" behind it; trust me it's quite technical. From how to rescue your blooms when they start to droop, to how much water and where to cut the stems; this is a whistle stop introduction. All the while Karen was taking us step by step through the production of the perfect arrangement.
The homemade tea was superb, with six different types of sandwiches and a selection of pink-themed cakes. The scones, with cream and jam, were all washed down with copious cups of tea and some refeshing pink Champagne. This is a fun and friendly experience with a chance to unleash some creativity. Karen and Michelle have had everyone from couples and groups of friends to keen crafters looking to hone their skills taking part in a course, with many coming back to have another go. Modern life is hectic, so getting away and enjoying this tranquil pastime is a great way to de-stress and enjoy yourself.
Karen and Michelle's top five tips for flower arranging
- Cut the stems of your flowers by 1 inch and at a 45 degree angle. This ensures the stem can absorb the maximum amount of water
- You should try to have four types of flower or foliage. Focal flowers (the biggest head or bloom usually), Line flowers (to give it height and dimension) Transition flowers and Filler Flowers (smallest head)
- Always stand up
- Keep the finished floral display out of sunlight and nowhere near fruit (the ethylene gas will hasten the deterioration of the flowers)
- Never mix daffodils with other flowers - they're a solitary bloom!
How the day goes: The professional flower arranger will first talk to you about the history of flower arranging and some simple techniques and tips before demonstrating how to make a gorgeous bunch. You will then tuck into homemade tea of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pink Champagne (and of course tea). You can then browse their shop before having a go yourself under their expert supervision (they are very friendly) before taking your efforts home. Get the deal Follow The Flower Academy on Twitter and Pinterest where you can get a peak at all their floral displays and designs.
Our pick: five of the best afternoon tea deals
1. Five star luxury
Champagne Afternoon Tea for two at the 5* Bentley Hotel: Save 35% at just £45 Get the deal
2. Try a new combination
BB Bakery Vintage Afternoon Tea Bus Tour for One - £45 Get the deal
3. Visit Victoria
Pink Champagne Afternoon Tea Cruise for Two – Save 50% - £33 Get the deal
4. Live the high life
The View from The Shard with Afternoon Tea at Hilton Green Park (a great sightseeing day) – Save 4% - £100 Get the deal
5. Spice things up
Asian Afternoon tea for two at the luxury Courthouse Hotel – Save 28% - £42 Get the deal