If you are reading this blog, there is no doubt you are familiar with the time-honored tradition of afternoon tea. The phrase may conjure images of posh English parlors or glamorous turn-of-the-century hotel cafes, when in fact the sharing of tea has been practiced the world over for millennia. But how did a rare Asian import become an essential part of the day for people from all walks of life? One aristocratic English woman is believed to be responsible for starting the trend that has become an international pastime. Meet Lady Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford. The story goes that this sociable aristocrat loathed waiting until late in the evening to eat supper, as was the custom at her home of Woburn Abbey. She began to ask for a pot of tea, usually a Darjeeling blend, and some light treats in the afternoon to tide her over. Other hungry nobles agreed that this was a marvelous idea, and Lady Anna's afternoon snack grew to become an elaborate social ritual that featured gourmet finger sandwiches, fine tea and plenty of gossip. Anna even became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, who adopted afternoon tea as a part of her royal routine. Modern tea devotees can attend an afternoon tea service at Woburn Abbey even today. Join us this month in enjoying our duchess-inspired blend: Lady BedfordA delightful blend of Indian and Chinese black teas, this brew is one of our favorites when 4 o' clock strikes in the shop. Ginger Lime RickeyIf you prefer bright flavor at your tea parties, try this green rooibos with ginger, lemongrass and licorice root. A tart, tasty, healthy tisane.