With our fascination with the British Royal Family and the welcoming of Prince William and Kate’s baby, Princess Charlotte, I have noticed aspects of British culture making its way across the pond. In particular, I frequently hear the term “high tea” by friends and see it on menus offered by five star establishments.
I decided to take a deeper look into the origin of high tea and other tea traditions.
High tea originated in the UK as the British working class’ meal before dinner. Typically the meal was enjoyed on a high table and stool, hence the name, “high tea”. The meal would usually consist of meats, custard, and tea.
On the other hand, afternoon tea became popular about one hundred and fifty years ago, when ladies invited their friends to their houses for an afternoon cup of tea. This tradition included light sandwiches, sweets, cakes and of course, tea.
Our modern tea tradition is more closely related to afternoon tea. When serving afternoon tea, light sandwiches, like watercress or fish paste or butter, are popular offerings. Scones and clotted cream are also common, and cakes, pastries, petit fours, and other assorted pastries satisfy sweet tooths. When scones and clotted cream are served, the meal might also be called cream tea.
Even in England, where the tradition of afternoon tea still remains a part of daily life, an elaborate cream tea is typically reserved for special events only. Sometimes, afternoon tea is a weekend meal, or one might attend an afternoon tea at a restaurant, teashop, or hotel. When restaurants outside of the UK feature high tea, they are usually referring to afternoon or cream tea.
One casual teatime tradition is a cup of tea at 4pm as a restorative. When children arrive home from school at about this time, an afternoon snack is usually fairly desirable.
Attending afternoon tea? Be sure to brush up on these teatime etiquette tips.
What teatime traditions do you enjoy? Leave a comment below.