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High Tea Is Not the Same as Afternoon Tea

What Is the Difference Between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?

There is an art to drinking tea beyond the type of leaves or bags you put in your cup. In fact, it is likely that talks of teatime would have you picturing yourself in a lace dress and a tweed jacket, enjoying scones and French macarons between sips of your English Breakfast. The whole experience is what sets it apart.

Most tea parties involve either high tea or afternoon tea. Although many people use these terms interchangeably, they are actually quite distinct from each other.

Their origins

Afternoon tea began as a form of social gathering for the upper class in the mid-1800s. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, had a habit of having tea and snacks between lunch and dinner, as dinner then was usually served around 8 pm to 9 pm. She began inviting relatives and friends to have afternoon tea with her, and the trend caught on.

In contrast, high tea was popularized by industrial workers and the laboring class. The term comes from the fact that it is casually served at dining tables and countertops, unlike afternoon tea that is enjoyed at low parlor tables. Workers at the time usually did not have lunch breaks, so they would rush out at the end of each workday to fill themselves with high tea.

When they are enjoyed

As its name implies, afternoon tea is enjoyed in the mid-afternoon, generally around 3 pm to 4 pm. It is meant to fill you during the time between lunch and dinner; hence, you may think of it as a fancy snack.

Meanwhile, high tea is enjoyed later on in the day, from 5 pm to 7 pm. It is meant to energize you after a long day at work, so you may think of it as supper with tea.

How they are enjoyed

Afternoon tea usually involves light sweets and bite-sized pastry, such as muffins, chocolate truffles, and finger sandwiches. It shouldn’t be too filling, as it should leave you with enough space for a proper dinner.

As for the set-up, afternoon tea is traditionally served in drawing rooms, with luxurious china and delicate brews.

On the other hand, high tea features heavier, savory fares such as meat, fish, and bread. It may be served using regular plates and could serve as a light dinner.