High Tea: What It Is And What Is Served

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In modern times, you sometimes find High Tea and Afternoon Tea used interchangeably. However, the history of High Tea is quite different from that of Afternoon Tea.

History of High Tea

As you might imagine, High Tea is a British term. First used in the 1820's, High Tea referred to the evening meal eaten by the working class people. Workers would return home around five in the evening, so High Tea was usually between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm.

It's easier to understand High Tea when you take a look at it in comparison to Afternoon Tea. High Tea would take place at a high table, or dinner table. This differed from Afternoon Tea, which usually took place in a garden or sitting room with parlor chairs and a low, or coffee, table.

Afternoon Tea was, and continues to be, a social gathering. High Tea was a meal equivalent to dinner or supper. Hot foods such as stew, soup, or meat were served along with a vegetable, bread, butter, jam, and a pot of tea. Most working class people didn't have the luxury of Afternoon Tea with its petite sandwiches and sweets. Afternoon Tea was for the upper class.

Modern Day High Tea

High Tea has been turned into a number of different events. In Australia, High Tea is much like the British Afternoon Tea, a formal event. In the United States, the term High Tea is used by hostesses and restaurants interchangeably with Afternoon Tea.

Where historically High Tea was a main meal, today High Tea may be a light meal. A late afternoon gathering or party may be referred to as High Tea, yet finger sandwiches and baked goods will be served.

Women's groups, book clubs, and other organizations may have afternoon gatherings, call them High Tea and serve tea and snacks. The next time you are in charge of organizing a wedding or baby shower, you can impress your family and friends by throwing a High Tea party. Bring out the fine china. You can serve scones and other pastries, petite sandwiches, fruit, and of course tea. Check out companies like Clumzy Clover Teas & Treasures for great ideas.

You can serve any flavor tea. Some favorites are:

  • Lemon tea
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Herbal
  • Chai
  • Earl Grey
  • Mint

Milk is usually served with tea, as cream is too heavy.

One more thing that is important to know is, when drinking tea, it is now considered a faux pas to extend your pinky finger.