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Afternoon tea

Tea with Friends - acrylic painting by Paulina Ponsford

"When tea becomes a ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things." - Muriel Barbery

Afternoon tea is a light meal consumed in the late afternoon or early evening; it typically consists of bread, cakes, butter, jam, and sometimes cold cuts and cheese, all of these drank with copious amounts of tea. A tea meal is associated with the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries; however, having afternoon tea is widely spread throughout the world.

Growing up in Chile, afternoon tea was a sacred ritual and the most important meal of the day in my home; tea was served at around five pm when the children were home from school, and the parents back from work. It was a social event in which the family reunited to enjoy the food, reconnect, and talk about our day. For many South Americans, afternoon tea is vital but not because of its nutritional value, but rather for its social aspect. It is common in South America to invite people over for afternoon tea, instead of lunch or dinner.

Most cultures around the world have their tea rituals; these practices vary as much as the varieties of tea available. In South America, we drink mainly the black tea varieties, with just a bit of sweetener, we also consume yerba mate, a tea-like herb native of South America. Middle eastern cultures prefer a spiced an aromatic tea known as Chai; they also add milk and sweetener to the teapot, the tea is then served in small clear glasses. Oriental culture favors a green tea, customarily served plain in dainty little cups. All of these tea ceremonies and rituals contain a time out aspect from the daily concerns in life, a simple refinement and formalism, a spiritual connection, and a beautiful simplicity.

For me, one of the most pleasurable and relaxing events is to have afternoon tea with family and friends. We have experienced the world-renowned afternoon tea at the sophisticated Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia; we have also had afternoon tea at the iconic Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary, and at the beautiful and timeless Banff Springs Hotel. Having afternoon tea with my friends is one of the rituals I miss the most because of the quarantine.

I did the above painting, Tea with Friends, inspired by a photo I took at a friend's house last summer when I was visiting her, and she was preparing some tea for us. At the time, I thought it could make an interesting painting; now, it has a different meaning to me; it reminds me of the beauty and importance of having small rituals in our daily lives that connect us.

I leave you with the video on how I created this painting while I make myself a hot cut of tea.

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