The History of Afternoon Tea

The custom of afternoon tea originally spread from upper-class social gatherings during the Victorian era, so it inevitably has an image of being something uplifting.

British afternoon tea began around 1840 when Anna Maria Russell, wife of Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford, treated female guests to tea and sweets while her male guests enjoyed hunting.
It then spread rapidly among the upper class, centered around Queen Victoria at the time.

For more information, please see this blog post.

British Afternoon Tea

In the second half of the 19th century, the middle class, whose economic power was rapidly increasing due to the Industrial Revolution, aspired to afternoon tea, a symbol of high society, and the custom began to spread among the middle class.

Furthermore, London hotels began serving afternoon tea by waiters surrounded by beautiful furnishings, even without the need for luxurious mansions or servants, making it easy to enjoy afternoon tea.
In the 20th century, the style we imagine today of a three-tiered stand with sandwiches and scones lined up on it was born and spread to even more people.

Afternoon Tea in Japan

British-style afternoon tea became popular in Japan around the 1970s, during the bubble period following the liberalization of tea imports in 1971.
It is said that the first place to serve authentic afternoon tea in Japan was Le Chardin at Hotel Chinzanso.
During the bubble period, many foreign-affiliated luxury hotels opened in Japan, and each hotel began offering afternoon tea service.

At that time, afternoon tea was still seen as a formal, high-class affair enjoyed by wealthy ladies.
However, over the past 10 years or so, an increasing number of places have started serving new types of afternoon tea that break away from the traditional style.

Information about hotels that offer afternoon tea can be easily found on websites like this one.

Ikkyu Afternoon Tea Special

The popularity of "Nunkatsu"

Recently, the activity of enjoying afternoon tea at hotels and cafes, known as "nunkatsu," has become popular among young women, and was even nominated for the 2022 Buzzword Award.
Staying at a luxury hotel and enjoying dinner can be a big financial hurdle, but afternoon tea is popular because it allows you to enjoy a little luxury at a reasonable price.
It is also important that the photo "looks good on Instagram," and it is said that the popularity of Instagram since 2017 has had a major impact on trends.
In fact, if you search for hashtags like "Nunkatsu" or "Nunka" on social media such as Instagram, you will find many posts.

In addition, as the number of tourists has plummeted since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, hotels have expanded these services to attract more guests, further increasing their popularity.

Furthermore, combining this with "oshikatsu," the practice of supporting idols or anime characters, is also becoming more and more popular.
I often see photos on social media of people arranging photos and merchandise of their favorite idols on a tabletop afternoon tea set, and celebrating their idols' birthdays, etc.
It's becoming more common to see various cafes offering afternoon tea in collaboration with these characters.

In modern Japan, "afternoon tea" seems to have evolved in its own way as an event that allows people to easily enjoy a sense of the extraordinary.


As our store is an antiques shop, we don't carry many of the modern items used for afternoon tea, and the current "nunkatsu" boom may only be temporary.
However, I think it's a very good thing that in this way young people can get exposed to and become interested in British tea culture.
In fact, the number of tea rooms offering authentic British afternoon tea is increasing, and the number of young customers seems to be growing.

Originally, afternoon tea was something that was casually enjoyed in upper-class social gatherings, and over time the dress code has become more casual and manners have become more simplified.

Rather than afternoon tea being a social occasion, the mainstream style seems to be to leisurely enjoy tea and sweets with family and friends in a cafe or at home.