What is the difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea?
Traditionally, high tea was a working class meal served on a high table served at the end of the work day shortly after five pm. It was a heavy meal of meat dishes, fish dishes, baked goods, vegetables, potatoes. High tea was much more a working class meal than it was elite social gathering.
Afternoon tea is what most people think of when they hear ‘high tea.’ It is more involved with manners, lace, and dainty foods, and is considered to be a ladies social occasion. Legend has it that afternoon tea was started in the mid-1800’s when the introduction of kerosene lamps led to later dinner times, around eight or nine pm. The story is that the Duchess of Bedford decided to invite some friends over for assorted snacks and tea, a fashionable drink at the time. The idea of an afternoon tea spread across high society and became a favorite pastime of ladies of leisure.
There are many variations of menu for afternoon tea. The simplest is the ‘cream tea,’ a meal of tea, scones, and cream. Add strawberries and you have ‘strawberry tea.’ Add sweets and you have ‘light tea.’ Add savory foods like finger sandwiches and you have a ‘full tea,’ what most of us think of as ‘High Tea.” Not to be forgotten is the addition of champagne!
There are a great many tea rooms in and around the Seattle area and throughout Washington state. The Abbey Garden Tea Room in Bellingham is a cozy tea room downstairs with a tearoom/pottery painting workshop upstairs. The Nonna Rosa Café Tea Room & Gifts in Olympia is surrounded by boutiques and art displays. The owner is from the UK and has a passion for tea. (www.nonnarosatea.com).
The favorite destination for many people is the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, and a favorite spot in the hotel is the tea room. The afternoon tea is considered an absolute ‘must do’ for anyone who visits Victoria, and may go there specifically for special event. The management even asks that everyone turn off their cell phones and mobile devices during afternoon tea.
Did you know that you can have an afternoon tea catered in your own home? Yes, there are people who specialize in just that business. Your event can be for as few as six people up to twenty or more. If you have your own tea service, that can be used, or the caterer will provide everything, including elegant china tea cups and saucers, plates, tea pots, and silverware. In fact, there are classes and workshops on how to conduct afternoon tea events.
There are also a great many magazines devoted to the elegant afternoon tea, both print and on-line magazines. One is The Tea House Times (www.theteahousetimes.com). They have a Tea Etiquette Certification Program through the Charleston School of Protocol. I’m afraid I would never pass. What about you!?
We haven’t even touched the subject of actually drinking tea, what kinds there are, and the subject of hot tea vs iced tea. That is a whole different topic we can talk about another day.