AFTERNOON TEA Legend says that afternoon tea was started in the mid-1800s by the Duchess of Bedford. Around this time, gas or oil light was introduced in wealthier homes, and eating a late dinner became fashionable. At the time, there were only two meals each day -- a mid-morning, breakfast like meal and the other was an increasingly late dinner-like meal. The story goes that the Duchess found herself with a "sinking feeling" and decided to have some friends over for assorted snacks and tea. The idea of an afternoon tea gathering spread across high society and became a favorite pastime of ladies of leisure. Later, it spread beyond the highest elites and became more accessible for some other socioeconomic groups.