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The Evolution of Afternoon Tea in Geneva, IL

April 23, 2014 • Afternoon TeaDining & GourmetHotels & TravelLocal AttractionsSpecial Events0 Comments

Recently The Herrington Inn & Spa announced the addition of Briton Stewart Boynton, as the Director of Operations for The Herrington Inn & Spa.  His background with five star hotels in England is exactly what was needed to raise the bar during afternoon tea service in Atwater’s restaurant.

Stewart has had the pleasure of afternoon tea in some of England’s finest establishments and had some of the best experiences in small middle of nowhere tea houses which have been in the same family for over a century.  I want to bring the best of everything to Atwater’s, we are very lucky to have such wonderful surroundings, a great team and local suppliers with amazing produce.  All of our tea selections are from the Coffee Drop Shop here in Geneva.

Afternoon tea in the beautiful setting of Atwater’s restaurant in The Herrington Inn & Spa has become a tradition.   In an all-windows atrium style room overlooking the courtyard and waterfront in Geneva, ladies are chatting, nibbling on freshly baked scones

Stewart explains that afternoon tea has become a standard hotel amenity throughout the world.   Its inclusion on a menu somehow elevates the elegance or reputation of a hotel.  Afternoon tea should be an elegant, indulgent, grandiose and more importantly, a fun social affair.

With the English reputation of being somewhat proper and stuffy, the social element is sometimes lost in translation to tea service in the U.S.  The proper elements of afternoon tea service are the timing (around 3pm) and menu:

  •  A selection of finger sandwiches all without crusts
  • Warm Scones with clotted cream and preserves
  • Small cakes and pastries
  • And of course a selection of freshly brewed hot tea

The tradition of Afternoon Tea is said to have originated sometime during the 1840’s by the then Duchess of Bedford who would request a small meal of breads and cakes to stave off hunger until the main meal of the day was served between 6 & 8 pm.  The duchess is reported to have invited friends to join her for tea and thus the tradition began. 

Tea in England had been a socially acceptable part of life for upper-class women (when accompanied by a male companion) from as early as the 1730’s with tea houses and tea gardens around London.  Tea dances also became very popular and continued to be through World War II.

High Tea in England is something very different, much more substantial: meat, potatoes, and vegetables served by the lower working classes as the main meal of the day.  Tea is still used in my family as the main meal of the day at around 6pm (Dinner is what we serve at midday)

Essentially all afternoon teas are similar; sandwiches, scones and cakes served with freshly brewed tea leaves (never a bag)! 

I want to create an all-round experience from the Host to the china and silverware down to the table linens here in Atwater’s at The Herrington Inn.

The scones are a key component to any Afternoon Tea, and I found that the U.S. version is not the same and those in England.  I gave our executive chef a copy of my family recipe and after translating the measurements and spending two day practicing I very proud our culinary team is using the recipe in the new Afternoon tea menu.

Stewart’s plans include offering additional tea services around the holidays for more guests to enjoy the decoration.

View the new afternoon tea menu here.