What Does High Tea Mean in Tea Terms?

High Tea, often confused with Afternoon Tea, is a delightful tea experience that holds a special place in the hearts of tea connoisseurs around the world. Originating from Britain, High Tea has its own unique ambiance, menu, and customs. In this article, we will delve into the meaning of High Tea in tea terms, exploring its history, components, and etiquette.

1. History of High Tea

High Tea emerged in the 19th century as an early evening meal for the working class in Britain. It was usually enjoyed after a long day of labor, where high tables were set up for convenience. Over time, High Tea evolved into an occasion of indulgence with a wide variety of tea, dishes, and pastries.

2. Components of High Tea

High Tea is a combination of savory and sweet delicacies accompanied by a selection of fine teas. Traditional components of High Tea include:

  • Tea: A variety of black, green, and herbal teas are served during High Tea. Assam, Darjeeling, and Earl Grey are commonly offered.
  • Sandwiches: Finger sandwiches filled with cucumber, smoked salmon, egg salad, and other delectable ingredients are staples of High Tea.
  • Scones: Freshly baked scones, often with raisins, served with clotted cream and jam, are an essential part of the High Tea experience.
  • Cakes and Pastries: A delightful assortment of cakes, pastries, and tarts are presented on tiered stands, tempting guests with their flavors and intricate designs.
  • Savoury Items: Alongside the sweet treats, High Tea also includes savory items such as quiches, savory pies, and mini savory tarts.
TeaSandwichesSconesCakes and PastriesSavoury Items
Black, Green, and Herbal TeasCucumber, Smoked Salmon, Egg Salad, etc.Freshly baked with clotted cream and jamAssortment of cakes, pastries, and tartsQuiches, savory pies, mini savory tarts

3. Etiquette and Traditions

When partaking in a High Tea experience, certain decorum and customs are followed:

  1. Dress Code: It is customary to dress smartly for High Tea, avoiding casual attire.
  2. Seating: Guests are seated comfortably around a table or on high back chairs to enjoy the tea and delicacies.
  3. Tea Pouring: The host often pours the first cup of tea, after which guests can serve themselves. Milk and sugar are made available.
  4. Handling Utensils: Use the tea cup’s handle, not the rim, and hold the saucer with one hand when sipping tea.
  5. Order of Consumption: Start with sandwiches, followed by scones, and conclude with cakes and pastries.

4. Variations of High Tea

High Tea has evolved differently in various regions and cultures, leading to unique variations:

  • Australasia: Afternoon Tea is sometimes referred to as High Tea in Australia and New Zealand, causing confusion with the original British concept.
  • Canada: In parts of Canada, High Tea is synonymous with a light supper.
  • Colonial High Tea: Colonial High Tea, popular in certain Asian and African regions, incorporates local flavors and dishes into the traditional High Tea format.
  • Modern High Tea: Contemporary adaptations of High Tea have emerged, featuring innovative flavors, fusion cuisine, and stylish presentations.
  • Exclusive High Tea Experiences: Luxury establishments worldwide offer themed High Teas, such as floral or seasonal variations, adding a touch of extravagance to the tradition.

5. High Tea versus Afternoon Tea

It’s important to note that High Tea is often confused with Afternoon Tea, but they are distinct in their traditions and timing. While High Tea is a heartier meal enjoyed in the late afternoon or early evening, Afternoon Tea is a lighter affair served between lunch and dinner, typically comprising tea, sandwiches, and pastries.

High Tea embraces the essence of tradition and indulgence, making it an enchanting experience for tea enthusiasts seeking a delightful journey of flavors and culture.