Afternoon tea – a social occasion revived

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If we look at the social occasion of “Afternoon Tea”, we will not do better than consult the famous company Fortnum and Mason (established in 1707), and suppliers of superior products to the British Royal family.

Tea itself has been a hit since the days of Samuel Pepys, whose famous diary noted it thus in 1660, “I did send for a cup of tee, (a China drink) of which I had never had drunk before.” The glorious tradition of “Afternoon Tea” as a dining occasion, however, came to a gentle boil altogether later.

Fortnum and Mason declare that “Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford in the 1830’s, is credited with first making ‘Afternoon Tea’ into a formal social occasion.

It all had to do with the shifting hour of the evening meal, which became fashionably later and later as more and more houses became able to be cost-effectively lit until well into the late evening. Not that the Bedfords were especially short on candles, but someone has to lead these things.

“Finding herself understandably peckish in the gap between luncheon and dinner, the Duchess began inviting her friends to enjoy tea and ‘a light refreshment’ in her rooms at Woburn Abbey. She continued the practice upon returning to London and the ‘Afternoon Tea’ became an increasingly fashionable ritual among the social hostesses of the upper classes.

“Tea rooms were all the rage in the late 19th century, quickly becoming the place for meeting friends and sharing gossip. They were also considered one of the few respectable places for women to meet without a chaperone, so the out-of-home ‘Afternoon Tea’ took off like a social network. At some stage music was added to the occasion, and fashionable young people attended afternoon ‘tea dances’ in the most stylish of hotels, a practice which continued until the Second World War.

“Nearly 200 years after the Duchess of Bedford’s innovation, sitting down to afternoon tea remains a byword for an elegant way of carrying on. No wonder people like to come to a bastion like Fortnum’s to do it properly.” (No wonder indeed. British aristocracy knows how to behave in the social context.)

Pattaya does not have the equivalent of rooms at Woburn Abbey, but it does celebrate Afternoon Tea in a small restaurant/tea room in Soi 5 Jomtien (the Immigration Police Soi) called Chuan Chim. It is about 30 meters from the mouth of the soi opening into Jomtien Beach Road, and opposite the large Currency Exchange. (By the way, if coming from the Pattaya end of Thappraya Road do not go into the Jomtien Second Road to get to Soi 5 as you have to go almost to Cambodia to be able to do a U-Turn.)

Based in a single shophouse, the restaurant is run by Som advised by Steve who is not only a tea fanatic, but also knows all about clotted cream. Some of Fortnum and Mason’s elegance can be seen in the fine bone China cups, saucers and plates. Far higher standard than you usually see in small Pattaya restaurants.

Now here’s the big confession – I don’t like tea! However this was no problem and a fresh pot of plunger coffee was brought to the table for me, in addition to the tea pot for Madame, who does drink tea.

The tiered cake stand was loaded with all sorts of edible goodies. We chatted elegantly, watched the world go by and decided that the world is a better place with Afternoon Tea.

Of course Chuan Chim is a regular restaurant as well, very inexpensive and covers breakfasts from B. 99 through to the mains (B. 190-250).

The Afternoon Teas are B. 99 – 199 with the traditional Roddas clotted cream, scones and jam at the top end.

We had a most enjoyable Afternoon Tea at Chuan Chim and the scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream were divine. Treat yourself one afternoon. You won’t regret it.

By the way, don’t worry about your pinky being raised. If it makes it any easier, I raise the pinky, Madame does not!

Chuan Chim, Jomtien Soi 5 (opposite the large Currency Exchange), on-street parking, telephone 095 932 5707, hours 7 a.m. till late, email [email protected]