In the film of Moonraker (1979), James Bond meets Hugo Drax while afternoon tea is being served. Drax regards the ritual as England’s one contribution to Western civilisation, and, as in the best houses and hotels, the tea is accompanied by cucumber sandwiches and what appear to be cakes or biscuits.
In a nod to the books, James Bond declines the offer of a cup. In Goldfinger (1959), we learn that Bond abhors tea, likening it to mud and attributing it to the downfall of the British Empire. Christopher Wood, in his novelisation of the film, makes the link between the books and films more explicit, having Bond reply that he is not a great tea drinker.
That is not to say that Bond doesn’t occasionally have a cup. In Thunderball (1961), he drinks tea laced with brown sugar while undergoing the nature cure at Shrublands. But then again, after a diet of hot water, orange juice and thin vegetable soup, he’s not quite himself, and in his febrile state considers three cups of tea, illicitly sought from the ‘opium den’ of the Rose Cottage tea-room, to be positively strength-giving, a sugar-rush to restore the senses and to some extent mimic the effect of a glass of Champagne.
We can perhaps see in the appearance of afternoon tea (and indeed Drax’s residence, a French chateau rebuilt in California) a trace of M’s club, Blades, where Bond is introduced to Drax in the original novel. We’re told that club members who stay overnight are brought morning tea and a copy of the Times (freshly ironed) by the club’s valets.
As for the cucumber sandwiches, James Bond declines those as well. His views on cucumber sandwiches are less well known, although in the novels he is by no means averse to a sandwich (usually ham). The sandwiches in Moonraker are arranged neatly on a dish and appear clearly enough on the screen to help us recreate them at home.
To make cucumber sandwiches, peel the cucumber, slice it thinly, sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the slices, butter slices of soft white bread, remove the crusts, lay the cucumber on the bread (the cucumber slices may overlap to reduce gaps, but not be stacked), close the sandwiches and cut them into triangles.