The Perfect Afternoon Tea

If you can't get to Ascot this year, here's how to enjoy the perfect afternoon in the comfort of your own home.
Today has marked the start of Royal Ascot, one of the largest, mass afternoon tea events of the year. 2014 specifically sees the first time a bespoke Royal Ascot loose leaf blend will be served at the course, which has been created by Henrietta Lovell, owner of Rare Tea Company ( 020 7681 0115. However, if you can't get to Ascot this year, here's how to enjoy the perfect afternoon in the comfort of your own home.

Fast Tea Facts

• According to the British Tea Council, around 165,000,000 cups of tea are drunk in the UK everyday
• The custom of afternoon tea is thought to go back to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford
• The teabag was invented around 1900 in the USA
• In 1968, only 3% of Brits used teabags, whereas now it's the standard practice

The flavour of tea

• Remember what you expect from wine when you taste tea, all of these things are still important – colour, smell, depth of flavour, viscosity and aftertaste
• The tea's production affects the flavour, such as whether the leaves were machine rolled or hand rolled
• The flavour is also affected by the time and location of the tea's harvest
How to have the perfect cup of tea
• 1 teaspoon per cup is the perfect water to leaf ratio, or even more precisely, 2.5g for 150ml
• For tea bags the ideal water temperature is boiling, however for a good leaf tea it needs to be just below the rolling boil
• There is no correct tea to milk ratio, just however you like it!
• Always serve tea in good china as lip feel is very important
• Every moment the tea is in the water, it is infusing. The longer it is left, the stronger and more bitter it will become. The bitter flavours in tea, known as tannins, dissolve slowly so a long infusion is more tannic. For a stronger cup of tea, add more tea rather than more time.
• Good tea leaves can be infused at least twice, as long as all the water is drained from the pot between infusions. In fact, the second cup will be even better than the first, because the water will have penetrated deeper into the softened leaf.

What to have with your tea

• The sandwiches should be eaten alongside champagne, and then the sweet treats such as cakes and scones should follow with the tea
• Scones should be eaten with jam and clotted cream, as the sweetness of the jam and richness of the cream greatly complements the tea's tannins.
• Don't drink coffee in the morning, as this will suppress your taste buds.