Afternoon tea has been a tradition since Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, made it ever so fashionable to invite one’s friends to tea in the early 1800s.

Between lunch and dinner, Anna invited fellow peers of the British realm to join her for an afternoon repast of tea and cake. The concept spread like wildfire, and grand hotels across the land soon began serving well-to-do matrons with tea, scones and cakes amid gorgeously decorated salons.

As a refined affair for the wealthy, afternoon tea evolved into something of a national institution – for the working classes, it became “high tea,” the main meal of the day.

In far away Australia, fashionable hotels joined the Brits in serving up tea to the rich and famous.

Over the past decade afternoon tea has enjoyed a renaissance, and has become so popular across Melbourne that the difficulty is choosing where to indulge in tea, and whether to opt for a traditional or a more contemporary spread. Here's some ideas to get you started.

The Hotel Windsor
Afternoon Tea at the Hotel Windsor is as much a part of the fabric of Melbourne as the Boxing Day Test, the Melbourne Cup and a game of Aussie rules football.

Despite two world wars, the Great Depression and a 1970s demolition proposal the hotel has served Afternoon Tea in the same Lounge every day since 1883.

Take tea at the Windsor today and the teapot containing one of 16 varieties of tea - from traditional English Breakfast to Sultry Chai - might be the same used by Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Nureyev or Dame Edna Everage, as silver tea services have been in continuous use for decades.

Australia's most famous and awarded afternoon tea is served in a richly-appointed salon, where waiters move among a sea of tables dressed with starched white tablecloths.

While tea is offered at the Windsor seven days a week, consider visiting on a weekend when delectable little pastries, that may include ham hock and pumpkin, and leek, potato and truffle, as well as an extravagant banquet of desserts, are an addition to the afternoon feast.

Sandwiches, trimmed of crusts, naturally, have fillings that may include chicken, apple, celery and watercress, and in a contemporary twist on traditional afternoon tea fare, thinly-sliced cucumber with avocado and tarragon cream cheese.

Sipping French sparkling wine, reach for the Windsor's famous traditional and sultana scones, served with home-made jam, silky lemon curd and rich clotted cream.

The weekend dessert spread is a combination of traditional and contemporary fare, and includes creamy little cheesecakes, hazelnut macaroons, cassis mousse, banana torte, fruit-filled pavlova, rhubarb brulee tart and crème caramels.

Afternoon Tea at the Hotel Windsor is held from Monday to Friday at 12 noon and 2.30 pm. $69 per person. On Saturday and Sunday Tea is served at 12 noon and 2.30 pm and includes dessert buffet, $89 per person. Find out more at thehotelwindsor.com.au.

Hopetoun Tearooms
The Victorian splendour of Melbourne's Block Arcade, built in 1893, makes for a splendid setting for afternoon tea at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, established in 1907 and still going strong.

There's generally a line of people waiting outside this Melbourne tea-drinking institution, so consider booking a table to enjoy the popular afternoon tea: three tiers of old-fashioned ribbon sandwiches, petit fours and scones, jam and cream, accompanied by a choice of a variety of traditional teas to more exotic brews.

Over breakfast and lunch, other menu items range from crab salad and foccacias to luscious baked raspberry cheesecake, lemon tarts, Black Forest Cake, red velvet Swiss roll and classic Aussie pavlova.

Open seven days. Afternoon tea is served between 10am and 2.30pm. Shop 1-2, Block Arcade Collins Street, Melbourne. Find out more: hopetountearooms.com.au.

Tea Room at the NGV
The Tea Room at the National Gallery of Victoria in St Kilda Road themes its afternoon teas to its major exhibitions, with the Paris to Melbourne Tea, inspired by the Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition (to February 8, 2015) the latest offering.

There's more than a dozen varieties of tea on offer at the NGV Tea Rooms, from traditional and house blend Chai and Chinese white peony. The menu features an array of cakes and savouries, from macaroons, éclairs and lamingtons to salads, quiches and sandwiches, that may include classic chicken with herb mayonnaise and cucumber and cream cheese.

Or indulge in the Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired tea, which includes savouries, scones, patisserie dome, tea or coffee and a glass of sparkling. $55 per person, daily from 10am to 3.30pm. Find out more at ngv.vic.gov.au.

Afternoon Tea at Parliament

The Parliament of Victoria has been serving traditional afternoon tea at its grand Spring Street location since 1924.

Strangers Corridor is the venue for an afternoon repose of freshly baked scones with jam and cream, delicious sweet fancies and finger sandwiches with fillings that may include red gum smoked salmon and cream cheese and cucumber. Afternoon Tea is served Monday to Friday between 2:30 pm and 4 pm on non-Parliamentary sitting days. $38 ($44 with a glass of Parliament House sparkling), bookings at events.parliament.vic.gov.au.

Langham Melbourne

Afternoon tea has become an institution at many of Melbourne's more contemporary grand hotels, and none more so than the five-star Langham, Melbourne.

The hotel's plush Aria Bar and Lounge is the venue for a weekend chocolate-inspired feast that includes ribbon sandwiches, savoury quiches, scones with jam and cream, and an extensive dessert buffet that has to be seen to be believed – an array of chocolatey offerings may include Opera Tortes, Chocolate Rocks, creamy mousses, and a cascading chocolate fountain, all to indulge in while a pianist tinkles the ivories. ($79 per person).

During the week, the Langham's equally delightful Classic Tiffin Afternoon Tea and Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea will set you back $59 and $64 per person respectively. Find out more at melbourne.langhamhotels.com.au.