The English high tea: an introduction

You’re absolutely foreign to London.  You’ve visited the Tower of London, Big Ben and rode on a double-decker bus, but there’s one more thing to check off your to-do list: TEA.

When we say tea, we don’t mean just any tea. We’re talking about enjoying a good, old-fashioned English tea time.

But there’s so much more than just a cup of tea when it comes to the history behind the English High Tea. In Britain, tea time means more than drinking a cup of tea. In fact, there are 3 kinds of teatime in Britain: Afternoon Tea, Cream Tea and High Tea. So, can you tell how does one differ from another? Let us explain to you in detail.

Image Source: Herworldplus
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The History

Image Source: NPR

Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English only had two main meals – Breakfast and Dinner.

Back to Edwardian days when it all started, the upper classes had light afternoon tea at 4.30pm and dinner at 8.00pm. However, the working class would come back from work and would be famished by then. They would have dinner at the time when the upper classes were having afternoon tea. Hence, they called their dinner ‘tea’. This meal is taken standing up or sitting on tall stools, thus ‘high’.

English High Tea typically consists of a mug of tea, bread with butter and jam, vegetables, cheese and occasionally meat. Variations on High Tea could include the addition of pies, potatoes and crackers. However, most tea rooms today have changed their menu from tea, bread, butter and cakes to include three particular courses served specifically in the following order:

Savouries – Tiny sandwiches or appetizers

Scones – Served with jam and Devonshire or clotted cream

Pastries – Cakes, cookies, shortbread and sweets


High Tea VS Afternoon Tea

You may want to think twice before asking someone out for an ‘Afternoon Tea’ by referring it to ‘High Tea’. Why? You ask. Allow us to explain further.

The term ‘High Tea’ is often confusingly misused as a label for an elegant, scrumptious mid-afternoon tea (typically know to be enjoyed by the upper class). The term that most people are looking for is ‘Afternoon Tea’ or ‘Low Tea’, your fancy-schmancy affair.

In actual fact, High Tea is also known as ‘Meat Tea’ whereby it tends to be on the heavier side and is eaten between 5pm and 7pm.  Simply put it this way, Afternoon Tea is a social event for the upper-class counterparts while High Tea is a necessary meal in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Image Source: Pinterest


Tea Etiquette

While there isn’t need to lift your pinky finger while sipping a cup of tea during High Tea as compared to the Afternoon Tea, we do reckon that you follow some of the British Tea Drinking Etiquette.

Image Source: Deerdelights


Now that you’re an expert in enjoying English High Tea, would you fancy a cup with us? Join us on the 23rd of April for a high tea session at Lancelot Tea Guild. We have limited slots, so register with us now!

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