What To Expect When Invited To A High Tea

Posted on: 10 June 2016

Tea isn't just a beverage, it can also be the name for a meal. In the United Kingdom, there are a variety of teas that people might be invited to partake in. Two of the most common are afternoon tea and high tea. Many people who aren't from the UK mistakenly call afternoon tea "high tea," but these are actually two different things. Here's what to know.

High Tea Vs. Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea, also sometimes called low tea because it's usually taken while seated on comfortable low chairs or sofas, is typically a small meal consisting mainly of cakes, sandwiches and pastries. This is what many Americans imagine when they think of tea. It usually occurs between 3 and 4 p.m. in the afternoon to make it easier to last until dinner around 7:30 or 8 p.m. High tea, on the other hand, is a heartier meal that takes place in early evening instead of late afternoon. It's typically taken while seated at the higher chairs used at the dinner table. This is a workingman's tea and tends to have heavier dishes, including meats, vegetables, cheese, pies, fish, bread, muffins and scones, which are better able to satisfy the hunger that occurs after working all day than the lighter fare of the afternoon tea typically consumed by the more idle rich. Sometimes it also includes some of the types of pastries served at afternoon teas as well. These days, however, some places in the UK will call afternoon tea "high tea" because of the common misconception made by people from other countries that high tea is a fancier afternoon tea.


High tea is a much more relaxed meal than afternoon tea. Instead of the dishes being delivered one at a time or served in a three-tiered tray and eaten on fancy china, the food is usually all placed on the table at once and people eat off of sturdier dishes and mugs. You shouldn't actually stick up your pinky finger, as this is a dead giveaway you're not from England. Otherwise, the rules for etiquette for high tea aren't really strict, unlike afternoon tea, where you're expected to open the napkin fully and spread it on your lap, lift the plate with your left hand and the cup with your right hand and move the spoon back and forth instead of stirring the tea in a circle. Remove the lemon from the cup before drinking and use a tong to pick up the sugar cubes, not your fingers.

For more information, contact Clumzy Clover Teas & Treasures or a similar company.