Thursday, 2 October 2008

The rise of the credit crunch cuppa



A new trend bucking the current financial climate is occurring across Britain. Tearooms are reporting a rise in trade and a surge in afternoon tea sales.

The practice of taking afternoon tea may seem like the preserve of days gone by, but it has been experiencing a rise in popularity among a wide range of customers, particularly female ones. From older couples celebrating wedding anniversaries, to hen parties and even business executives, these social groups are increasingly considering afternoon tea as worthy a meal to centre their occasion around as lunch or dinner.

William Gorman, executive chairman of the UK Tea Council, said: "The event of afternoon tea is becoming fashionable again. It seems a younger generation is re-understanding the charm and elegance of the traditional English custom."

Restaurateur Michele Butterworth, owner of Shelly's Restaurant in Warrington, put afternoon tea on her menu when she first opened four years ago, and believes it is helping her business stay afloat during the current financial climate.

She says: “With this credit crunch people are going out less, – my takings are down 50 per cent – but customers are still coming in for afternoon tea. It is a little bit more affordable than going out for an evening meal and people like to be waited on, so it’s a great way to still get people through the door.”

Butterworth is confident that afternoon tea will soon become an integral part of our lives as we search for antidotes to the stress of modern living.

“People are beginning to realise that all this rushing about isn’t good for them and are starting to take time out for themselves. Afternoon tea gives them the chance to stop for a couple of hours and have some me-time. I think tea-time is definitely going to make a comeback.”

The custom of taking afternoon tea is thought to have been created by a Duchess of Bedford in the 18th century.

It is believed the duchess used to complain of a "sinking feeling" in late afternoon, so would have a pot of tea and a snack. She began inviting her friends to join her between 3pm and 5pm.