High tea, afternoon tea, cream tea are all joyful and delicious way to enjoy tea. All of them are a part of a strong British tea tradition and a must for every tea traveler or tea lover. Both of them are much more than just drinking a cup of tea – they are an opportunity to spend time with others and indulge in delicious food while sipping a cup of tea.

What is afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea is a tradition that includes both drinking tea and eating. It was first invented in the 19th century by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford.[1] It was served between 4 and 5 in the afternoon, right between lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea soon became a very important event, with participants, usually women, wearing gowns, gloves and hats for the event[2].  In fact, in some of the most traditional afternoon venues, especially hotels, the afternoon tea is still a very formal event with a special dress code. Afternoon tea is also, but less often, called low tea.

Every afternoon tea includes scones with clotted cream, jam, sandwiches, small cakes and tea, and sometimes – a glass of champagne/Prosecco. The words used for an afternoon tea where prosecco and champagne are served is sparkling and royal tea. Today, the afternoon tea tradition is as popular as ever and not reserved for an upper class only. Themed events are popular too, from Mary Poppins to Mad Hatters, hamburgers or Japanese themed events.

What is high tea?

High tea, although similar to an afternoon tea, was reserved for the lower working class. It’s believed that the term high tea came from a habit of sitting by a high dinning table. High tea replaced dinner and was served later than afternoon tea. Although it included tea, the selection of food was far less luxurious, and contained regular food including bread and butter, pies and vegetables.

What is the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

Although both high tea and afternoon tea included tea, they were very different. While you may see afternoon tea served at almost any hotel, tea rooms or restaurant in the United Kingdom, you will rarely see high tea on the tea menu. In fact, the word high tea got lost throughout history and became a regular dinner – often without tea.

Today, afternoon tea is available to almost everyone and served at different times of the day – from the morning till the evening. A much lighter meal that includes tea is called cream tea. Cream tea is tea served with scones, clotted cream and jam only.

When is traditional afternoon tea?

Traditional afternoon tea is served at around 4 pm, in between lunch and dinner. Although it should provide a snack between those two meals, the amount of food usually served at an afternoon tea is sometimes enough to replace one of those two meals. It’s one of the most luxurious tea feasts in the whole world.

When is high tea served?

High tea was usually served later than the afternoon tea, usually after 5 or 6 pm, but without a strict time frame.

Best teas for afternoon tea time

Afternoon tea usually includes a selection of traditional blends and some herbal teas. The best teas to serve are those that can handle sweet pastries, such as Blue Lady Grey, English Black or Darjeeling tea, and Mint, Chamomile and Lavender herbal tea. Teas served should be of high quality, delicious, full bodied and flavorful. Flavored and dessert black tea blends are an excellent choice too.

Don’t forget to serve your tea in a nice tea set and pay attention to all the details. Afternoon tea party should always be indulgent. Choose loose leaf tea instead of tea bags and get a three tiered serving platter. The lower one is always reserved for small finger sandwiches, the second one belongs to the cakes, while cones and and clotted cream should be served on the top.

Top teas for high tea

Because high tea includes meat and vegetable dishes too, the best teas to enjoy would be stronger, but simple teas – such as Pu’erh, Assam black tea and Simple Rooibos. Because high tea didn’t include any elaborate etiquette, or high quality teas, or even fine bone china sets (but rather a regular mug[3]), there is much more freedom when organizing this type of event.

References:

[1] https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Afternoon-Tea/

[2] https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Afternoon-Tea/

[3] https://afternoontea.co.uk/information/what-is-high-tea/

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