Afternoon Tea on the Move

Afternoon Tea on the Move
Photograph by Ian Coles
By Jane Pettigrew

All aboard for uniquely British teatimes!

Ever since its heyday in the frothy, high-fashion days of the Edwardian period at the beginning of the 20th century, British afternoon tea was served not just at home and in elegant hotel lounges, but also on steam trains, oceangoing liners, and aeroplanes. That continues today, of course, on luxury modes of transport such as The Orient Express, the Queen Mary II, and upper-class cabins on long-haul flights. But now, to add to the fun and sense of celebration, a trend to serve tea in more quirky situations is growing. My favorites in Britain today are some of the vintage steam trains operated privately by volunteer railway workers up and down the land; boats on the Thames; and London’s vintage, bright red Routemaster double-decker buses. The crockery and food may not be quite as gracious and refined as that at Claridge’s or The Langham, but to sit sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches while the cityscape or countryside moves gently past on either side is delicious. The regular, nostalgic clickety-clack of the train wheels on the track, the slight rolling of the steamer in the wake of a speeding launch, and the sway of the bus as it rounds the corner at a major junction in central London are all part of the excitement


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