The essential afternoon tea sandwich
For afternoon tea you must have cucumber sandwiches. Not just any old cucumber sandwiches either.
It may sound simple to put together the three essential ingredients of bread, butter, and cucumbers, but there's more to making a cucumber sandwich than you think.
Just as there's an art to a proper afternoon tea, there's an art to the ultimate cucumber sandwich.
The cucumber sandwiches must be good enough to serve to the Queen Of England.
The Gracious Art of Afternoon Tea
Having afternoon tea is the height of self indulgence. It's a gracious meal served between light lunch and late dinner somewhere between 3 o'clock and 5 o'clock.
Once it was mainly confined to the aristocracy, but times and lifestyles change. The afternoon tea has seen a revival in recent years as its elegance is once more enjoyed.
The Gracious Art of the Cucumber Sandwich
Cucumber Sandwiches are an integral part of afternoon tea. Make a favourable impression with the traditional cumber sandwich, made in the traditional method.
Cucumber sandwiches must be small, they must be crustless and they must be very, very thin.
Serve cucumber sandwiches in style - Rosanna Le Petit Hameau Two Tiered Tray
Le Petit Hameau porcelain, named for Marie Antoinette's Little Village amidst the gardens of Versailles
How to Prepare the Bread for Cucumber Sandwiches
- Traditionally, the bread is white.
- Remove the crusts from the bread.
- Cover a bread slice with a fine layer of soft butter. You could use a very mild cream cheese instead of butter although there is some disagreement over the authenticity of the cheese.
- Spread the butter right up to the very edge of the bread slices in the thinnest coating. This protects the bread from getting damp with cucumber juice.
- A cucumber sandwich, when picked up, must not become damp enough to moisten your fingers.
Prepare the Cucumber
For a cucumber sandwich you need Garden Cucumbers a couple of smooth skinned, dark green ones..
Wash them thoroughly in case there's any wax in the skin.
Take a good sharp knife and cut off the ends. Where you see rough and knobbly skin, then finely slice as much off as you can. We need to see a good amount of green in the sandwich.
Slice the cucumber into very thin slices. Dash a little lemon juice over the slices - go easy.
Place the cucumber slices onto the bread
You can't prepare the cucumber sandwiches until you're almost ready to serve them or the bread will dry and the cucumbers wilt.
Leave the slicing of the cucumbers and the assembly of the sandwiches for the last minute.
Cucumbers must be really thinly sliced
Afternoon Tea with the Queen - Kensington Palace
Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches with tea as served at The Orangery at Kensington Palace in London.
Every year Queen Elizabeth II opens the private gardens at Buckingham Palace to host three afternoon tea parties
The gates open at 3:00 p.m. so that guests can enjoy a walk in the Royal Gardens, usually closed to the public.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by members of the Royal Family, enter the garden at 4:00 p.m. as one of two bands plays the National Anthem. Taking a different route, each Royal circulates amongst the guests. High ranking, dignitaries, and special guests proceed to the Royal tent to join the Royal Family for afternoon tea. The remaining guests are served tea from a 408-foot long buffet table.
At 6:00 p.m., the Queen and Royal Family depart for the Palace, where once again the National Anthem is played to indicate that the party has ended.
Served on Silver
Even if you don't get to have tea with the Queen, you can still be ready in case of any eventuality.
Fingers or Triangles?
The Great Debate. Should cucumber sandwiches be in ladylike fingers? Or should they be in delicate triangles? What do you think? Feel free to state your stand on this particularly vexing question
How should you slice your Cucumber Sandwiches?
Photos, unless stipulated otherwise are by Susanna Duffy
All comments are greatly appreciated. You don't have to be the Queen to leave yours
© 2010 Susanna Duffy
Leave a Message for the Hostess
Peter Badham from England on January 29, 2014:
Afternoon tea or 'high tea' is really back in fashion in England now, showing up on many TV programs like 'Britains Best Bakery'(one of their tasks being to make 5 afternoon snacks. Now you can shoot me, but I love the addition of Marmite in my cucumber sandwiches..
acreativethinker on December 20, 2013:
These cucumber sandwiches look amazing. Thanks for sharing. Take care :)
moonlitta on August 26, 2013:
It is my first year as a gardener, and my first to pick my own cucumbers either- so I fight cucumber excess... sandwiches are always a great idea!
John Dyhouse from UK on August 14, 2013:
Usually grow cucumbers in the garden so we have to have lots of cucumber sandwhiches to use them up. This year its more tomatoes, the cukes didn't get thru the cold spring
mariacarbonara on August 05, 2013:
i haven't done a proper afternoon tea in years. Thanks for the reminder. Great lens
Susanna Duffy (author) from Melbourne Australia on June 12, 2013:
@OhMe: The Queen would never tolerate mayonnaise on her cucumber sandwiches
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on June 12, 2013:
I love a good cucumber sandwich but we always use mayonnaise instead of butter or cream cheese. I will have to try it your way.
liamsquidoo on March 07, 2013:
Great job on the lens, keep squidooing!
Rose Jones on February 15, 2013:
Back to sprinkle some angel dust. This reminds me of my Anglophile sister who just passed away. Wonderful lens.
StephenJackson2 on February 10, 2013:
Great Lens and enjoyed visiting, just a shame i don't like cucumbers :P.
EricaShops on February 10, 2013:
I am a tea fanatic and can't wait to make these sandwiches. It'll be like a proper tea party. :)
Susan R. Davis from Vancouver on February 07, 2013:
Return visit for me. Loved this, especially after I read about afternoon tea recently. *blessed*
cmadden on February 02, 2013:
I suspect I'll enjoy them whether they are digits or geometric! Oh, great! Now I'm hungry, and not a cucumber in the house.... Love your lens!
Science-Fiction-Fan on January 21, 2013:
Very elegant cucumber sandwiches
Gregory Moore from Louisville, KY on December 17, 2012:
Very tasty! Now I'm hungry. Thanks
TedWritesStuff on December 02, 2012:
Who knew that cucumber sandwiches could actually be interesting. Good job.
Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 28, 2012:
I must make these...I've never had one and love cukes. Hope I can make thin slices.
eightieschild on October 24, 2012:
Wow, you've managed to take what sounds like possibly the dullest food on the planet, and turn it into an interesting lens. :)
jlshernandez on October 20, 2012:
I have to learn to slice cucumber paper thin to make these scrumptious tea sandwiches. Thanks for the recipes.
jaclinart lm on September 30, 2012:
My mouth is now watering for cucumber sandwiches!
WebMarketingPro on September 09, 2012:
I'll be shopping for cucumbers and appropriate bread tomorrow.
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on September 02, 2012:
These look delightful!
gaser983 on August 02, 2012:
Fantastic lens, well done! Squidlike
CoeGurl on August 01, 2012:
I very much like tea sandwiches. They alway taste better when someone else makes, them, I don't know why. Lovely lens!
ShoppingWithMonty on June 25, 2012:
It's been so long since I had a cucumber sandwich and now I really want one with a nice cup of tea. I'm going to get some cucumber tomorrow when I go shopping. My mouth is watering at the very thought!
JanieceTobey on May 23, 2012:
Our homeschool co-op had a Tea one afternoon during the time we were studying England. One of the things we served was cucumber sandwiches. I didn't think I'd like them because I'm not a fan of cucumbers, but to my surprise, I loved them!! I'm so glad I tried them!!
DuaneJ on May 15, 2012:
I love a classic cucumber sandwich now and then! This lens makes my mouth water!
Fay Favored from USA on May 10, 2012:
I must have missed the invite when I was there :) Love afternoon tea, well any tea time for that matter. I'm in need of one right now.
Rose Jones on May 01, 2012:
Very sweet. You show us how to put on a lovely British tea with the cucumber sandwiches as the star. Pinned to my Cooking and Food board.
BestRatedStuff on April 23, 2012:
Great lens, love cucumber sandwiches. Love the pictures too, brings out the afternoon tea atmosphere.
Jolent on April 03, 2012:
Great lens! I love cucumber sandwiches for lunch that are hearty filling, so my cucumber sandwiches fall far from any traditions anywhere. First, I use Orowheat Winter Wheat bread for it's nutty sweet taste (and for the sunflower seeds in it too!) . It''s nicely textured bread that tastes good plain even with nothing on it....plus, I rarely ever eat white bread anymore. No butter or mayo for me on this sandwich. On one half of the bread I spread some Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb Cheese. The other half of the bread gets a layer of mashed avocado with a sprinkle of salt. I like my cucumbers sliced about 1/4 - 3/8 inch thick because I like the crunch in the sandwich. Add a layer of alfalfa sprouts, and viola! ... a hearty filling cucumber for lunch. Yum. Guess I know what is for lunch today.
justDawn1 on April 01, 2012:
Have never tried a cucumber sandwich! (Actually, never even heard of it). Will have to give it a try when the farmers market starts up :)
Pmona LM on March 25, 2012:
I love cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese, but I also add lettuce and tomato - a far cry from what you would serve the Queen. And I never had them with tea, but it does sounds delicious.
alex89 lm on March 22, 2012:
very nice, I love cucumber sandwiches. My great grandmother apparently could slice a cucumber so thin you could read the newspaper through it, I'm still working on it!
Science-Fiction-Fan on March 20, 2012:
How essentially elegant - cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea
7thStone on March 20, 2012:
Yummy ... I love afternoon tea. In the summer when we have fresh cucumbers and vidalia onions it's one of our favorite sandwiches (we also love tomato with mayo :) Great Lens, thanks for sharing such a nice tradition.
Blackspaniel1 on February 05, 2012:
Nice idea, veggies on a sandwich!
River_Rose on January 03, 2012:
Nice lens.....learned something new today ! Thanks !
scss on December 21, 2011:
Just love these cucumber sandwiches! Have already had some this spring - now it's summer I look forward to picking cucumbers from my own garden.... NOW THAT is a tasty cucumber!
cocktailsexaminer on August 16, 2011:
Great advice, thank you for sharing!
Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on August 04, 2011:
So beautiful pictures, and i am sorry because i can not invite you for a tea with those sandwiches, unless you would like to fly 36 hours to get here. but never say never...
CruiseReady from East Central Florida on July 17, 2011:
I think it's been years since I had a cucumber sandwich, but I remember liking it very much. Hadn't thought of them in ages, but now I am thinking of them again,
traveller27 on July 01, 2011:
Beautiful lens - I remember having cucumber sandwiches when I was growing up.
pimbels lm on June 24, 2011:
They look delicious. Wonderful lens, thank you.
annamari on June 09, 2011:
I did not know how very important the thin cucumber sandwich was to having tea, until reading your lens. I think I shall invite the gals over for this special treat! Thanks!
anonymous on May 05, 2011:
Now I am fully prepared should the Queen stop by for tea and cucumber sandwiches. You cucumber sandwiches are an event all by themselves.
Science-Fiction-Fan on October 22, 2010:
Pass the plate of cucumber sandwiches please
jgall34 lm on October 22, 2010:
I did not realize you could make so many variations of a cucumber sandwich. very good lens.
CherylsArt on September 21, 2010:
I hadn't heard of these before, but they sound quite tasty. I'll give them a try some time.
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on September 08, 2010:
Oh, I haven't had one of those in ages! It looks and sounds so delicious. Cucumbers are on my shopping list this week! Do I have to have a tea party to enjoy them? : )
anonymous on August 08, 2010:
It has been forever since I have had a cucumber sandwich. This made me long for one so badly. Thank you, I will have to get to making myself one soon.
VSP on July 24, 2010:
I'm back, just want to let you know I added it to my Cambric Tea lens
hlkljgk from Western Mass on July 19, 2010:
this sounds perfect for my abundance of garden cucumbers.
VSP on July 19, 2010:
My daughter was looking for this recipe the other day. I'll email this lens to her.
happynutritionist on July 18, 2010:
I have never had a cucumber sandwich before...will have to try this! I added this lens to the plexo on my Vegetarian Sandwiches lens, if you have other vegi sandwich lenses, please feel free to add them:-)
LadyFlashman from United Kingdom on July 18, 2010:
I adore Afternoon Tea, I recently went to the Orangery in Kensington and it was marvellous. One day I will have to go to the Ritz. I love the humour of this lens and the gorgeous photos, cucumber sandwiches are fantastic - long may they live!