No single lady dislikes “high tea”. They look high and low for the best “high tea” that suits their budget in town to enjoy the most relaxing afternoon with good companions. Often you also hear people says that they are going for an afternoon tea. High tea and afternoon tea are used interchangeable nowadays. However, do they really mean the same thing? The answer may surprise you.
The history of afternoon tea may trace back as early as 1840 when Duchess of Bedford wanted a small bite to fill in the gaps between lunch and late dinner. She also invited her friends to come over during afternoon tea. Slowly, it had become a trendy social gathering among wealthy social class. Afternoon tea at that time was usually conducted on low tables with comfortable chairs in a drawing room or outdoor in a beautiful garden. Therefore, afternoon tea is also called “low tea”.
Afternoon tea is a light meal composed of three course of tea sandwiches and savories, followed by scones with clotted cream and jam, and ending with sweet pastries. Everything is bite-sized and eaten with fingers. They are light, delicate and presented in an elegant manner.
So how about high tea that always lingers in our mouth today? If low tea refers to low tables then obviously high tea means “high dining tables” setting that usually more proper meals like meat dishes, potatoes, baked beans and other heavy dishes are served. It was back then a working class evening meal or supper to nourish after a long day’s work. The timing therefore is around 5.00pm to 7.00pm compared to afternoon tea which usually held at around 4.00pm. So you see, it does not carry meaning of “high class or high society” that you imagined when you hear the word “high” tea.
I know it is hard to believe since many 5-star hotels offer 3-tier delicate dessert set and call it high tea. So next time when your friend is inviting you to a “high tea”, make sure she does not refer to meat dishes and filling potatoes. Act dumb and tell her you‘d prefer an elegant afternoon tea instead.