What is a chocolate afternoon tea?

6 Apr 2020

Food + Drink

You’ve heard of afternoon tea and high tea, but have you ever heard of chocolate afternoon tea? Don’t worry if not – our Rabot 1745 restaurant can show you!

It’s safe to say that the concept of afternoon tea is in a culinary league of its own. But with so many components, it could do with some explaining. In this article, we break down what an afternoon tea consists of and how to make your own chocolate afternoon tea.

Chocolate afternoon tea

What is afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea can be a wonderful assortment of bite-sized savoury and sweet treats, or it can mean a plate of bland cucumber sandwiches and crumbly tasteless cakes. It’s all about how you go about it. For instance, at Hotel Chocolat, our Rabot 1745 restaurant aims to exceed expectations by adding a modern twist to the affair. We’ve created an indulgent chocolate afternoon tea, pairing rich chocolate desserts with complimentary savoury dishes that draw on the subtle tones of the cocoa nib.

Where does afternoon tea come from?

Although tea is now characterised as a quintessentially British beverage, it was actually a Chinese drink, imported to England in the 17th century. Whilst tea was enjoyed for decades, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the concept of afternoon tea started to brew.

In 1840 Duchess Anna of Bedford, complained of “having that sinking feeling” come late afternoon. She started taking a light snack – such as a slice of bread and butter – and a cup of tea at 4pm each day. This quickly became popular amongst the aristocracy. After she invited friends around to join her, other noblewomen became accustomed to the event. Soon, the practice of having a light bite between 4pm and 5pm was highly popular. Women would even dress up especially for the event.

What does it consist of?

Cream tea, high tea, chocolate afternoon tea… There are so many different variations that it can sometimes be difficult to work out exactly what afternoon tea should include.

Whilst there are similarities between these variations on the classic mid-afternoon snack, there are subtle differences that set them apart.

Cream tea

Unlike its more detailed variations, cream tea consists of only scones, jam clotted cream, and of course, tea. This afternoon treat has quickly become a staple for holidaymakers to enjoy during the British summertime as it features regularly in tourist attractions, such as cafés in cathedrals or castles.

Perhaps the reason why we Brits can’t get enough of cream tea is because of the trivial, yet divisive argument it always evokes. Does the cream go on the top, or the bottom of the jam? Watch out – if you’re in Devon the cream should go on first, and if you’re in Cornwall then the cream goes on last.

High tea

If afternoon tea belonged to the upper echelons of society, then high tea was the poorer man’s version. Whilst afternoon tea was typically enjoyed whilst sitting demurely on a sofa chatting amongst friends, high tea was a meal for workers, enjoyed at the table with family. And, unlike afternoon tea, high tea was taken as dinner, rather than a simple snack.

Typically, high tea consisted of more substantial foods, such as pork pies, cold meats, bread and tea cakes. Whilst tea did make an appearance, it was a strong, black hearty brew.

Over time, the meaning behind high tea merged with that of afternoon tea as the upper classes developed their own variation. This is partly the reason why high tea and afternoon tea are now used interchangeably.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea offers a more dainty and decadent way to enjoy a late-in-the-day cuppa, a sarnie and a slice of cake. Nowadays, afternoon tea consists of a selection of petite finger foods, such as miniature cakes, tarts and scones. It also usually contains small finger sandwiches – crusts off, of course!

No afternoon tea could be complete without tea. Traditionally served in china cups and saucers, delicate brews are served both upon arrival and during the afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea and biscuits

How to make chocolate afternoon tea

As we’ve mentioned, our own Afternoon Tea of the Gods is chocolate themed. Our cocoa roots run through our whole menu – even our egg mayonnaise brioche!

Of course, we don’t advise you to start drizzling chocolate all over your sandwiches! But there are ways of adding a nuanced chocolate touch. The trick is to add subtle tastes of cacao to a few of your savoury dishes by sprinkling in a sparing amount of cocoa nibs. These will provide a delicate, malty flavour and tie your dishes together with your sweeter chocolatey delights.

Create an array of luxury chocolate biscuits, scones, and sandwiches (drawing on our cocoa nib trick). Plus, have some cacao loose leaf tea on hand to offer your guests. Failing that, provide some freshly brewed coffee with chocolate notes. See our menu for some inspiration!

How to serve afternoon tea

How you should serve your afternoon tea depends on the feel of your event. Is it a casual gathering with a few friends, or a formal event? Depending on which, you can decide whether it’s time to bring out your quirky cutlery or fine china cups.

Remember that the star of the show will be the food (obviously!), so don’t worry too much about the presentation. A clean table cloth, simple food arrangement, and a few decorative napkins (for scone and jam mishaps) will go a long way.

Serving chocolate afternoon tea

What to wear

If you’re hosting a themed afternoon tea, such as a Mad Hatter’s tea party, then this is a great excuse to dress up and look the part. If not, just wear whatever makes you feel comfortable — pre and post some cake-eating!

Want your event to be a traditional, ever-so-classy affair? Then take this as your opportunity to don your best dress. It’s not every day that we have an excuse to dress to the nines.

Afternoon tea at Rabot 1745

We serve our own chocolate afternoon tea in our Rabot 1745 restaurant in Borough Market (one of London’s best foodie venues), and we must say, it truly is something to write home about.

We believe that chocolate can be used to lift both sweet and savoury treats. Our Hereford beef is marinated for 24 hours with treacle and parkin spices. It’s complimented by a fiery wasabi horseradish and tempered with our high-cocoa butter white to recreate the typical beef and horseradish sarnie.

Those with a sweet tooth will be pleased to know that we haven’t cut back on cocoa flavours with our cakes and scones. We complement our sultana and cinnamon scone with strawberry jam, clotted cream and 70% chocolate ganache for a sumptuous, regal scone. Our chocolate and cherry opera gateau is made up of chocolate mousse, cherry purée and Madagascan vanilla sponge. Topped with dark chocolate ganache and a kirsch-soaked cherry, this petite chocolate cake combines deep cocoa flavours with a sophisticated cherry tang. And, of course, no chocolate afternoon tea would be complete without our tasting chocolate selection.

If tea doesn’t quite suit your tastes, our four bean Arabica blend offers the smoothest coffee. If you prefer a sweeter beverage, our completely natural hot chocolate promises the creamiest texture, with opulent notes of cocoa running throughout. 

Of course, it’s all well and good writing about it, but you should really try it for yourself. We hope to see you there!