The origins of the well-established tradition of afternoon tea appear to lead to the 8th Duchesse of Bedford, who, in or around 1840, started a ritual of having cakes, bread and tea sent to her room around 4pm to ward off hunger pagns. By the late 1800, this ritual grew into to a widely-practised and fashionable one for women who, changing into gowns for the occasion, congregated in drawing rooms for private social events and indulged in sweet pastries, miniature sandwiches and tea (usually Darjeeling).
Afternoon tea is usually served in three courses on a three-tiered stand. The finger sandwiches comprise the first course and are placed on the bottom tier of the stand. The second tier usually consists of scones, jam and clotted cream. Bite-size pastries are tea cakes are the third course and are placed on the top tier of the stand.
Ideas for finger sandwiches:
Smoked salmon, horseradish sauce, juniper on rye bread
Roasted chicken, tarragon mayonaise, little gem lettuce leaves
Cucumber, lemon-flavoured cream-cheese, watercress on white bread
Egg mayonnaise, mustard cress, shallot on white bread
The depth of the filling should be similar to the thickness of the bread