While both afternoon tea and high tea involve the enjoyment of tea, the distinctions in time, setting, menu, audience, and presentation set them apart. Afternoon tea is an elegant social affair, often associated with leisure and upper-class society. In contrast, high tea is a more substantial and informal meal, rooted in the working-class tradition.
What is Afternoon Tea
The tradition Afternoon Tea is said to be started by 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria. Since Victorian meals were regularly served "stylishly late" she would begin to feel hungry around five in the evening. Unwilling to wait until supper to fulfill her hunger, she requested that her head servant serve tea in the late evening together with a couple cakes or rolls. She soon made it a habit and invited friends to join her in this new tradition. After Queen Victoria embraced the practice, the custom became considerably more prominent. When tea became more affordable and available to the middle and lower class, the activity was embraced and enjoyed by all.
What is High Tea
Similar to Afternoon Tea, High Tea is an early dinner and happens between five and six o'clock. It ordinarily comprises of chilled meats, eggs, cakes and sandwiches and is a formal occasion. Due to the kind of foods served, High Tea has a tendency to be served on the same table routinely utilized for dinners, a higher table, and henceforth the expression "high tea."
Differences between Afternoon and High Tea
Quick Facts about Afternoon Tea
- Time and Origin: Afternoon tea, also known as "low tea," is a British tradition that typically takes place between 3 and 5 pm. It emerged in the early 1840s as a way to bridge the gap between lunch and a late dinner.
- Setting: It's usually served in elegant settings, such as tea rooms or gardens, often on low tables, hence the alternative name "low tea."
- Menu: Afternoon tea includes delicate finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, pastries, cakes, and of course, a pot of fine tea.
- Audience: Historically, afternoon tea was associated with the upper class, and it became a social event for ladies of high society.
- Presentation: Presentation is key, with fine china, silverware, and beautifully arranged platters.
Quick Facts about High Tea
- Time and Origin: High tea is served later, usually between 5 and 7 pm. It originated in the working class of Britain during the Industrial Revolution as a substantial evening meal.
- Setting: Often served at home on "high" dining tables, hence the name "high tea."
- Menu: High tea consists of heartier fare, such as meat pies, vegetables, bread and butter, cheese, and sometimes fish. Tea is served alongside the meal.
- Audience: High tea was a meal for working people, often enjoyed by families after a day's labor.
- Presentation: Less formal than afternoon tea, high tea doesn't rely on elegant presentation or fine china.
Understanding these differences helps to appreciate the rich cultural history of tea and its various traditions. Whether indulging in a luxurious afternoon tea or enjoying a comforting high tea at home, the world of tea offers a flavorful experience for everyone.