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The History of High Tea

You may have heard the term “high tea” or “afternoon tea” in the movies before. It’s also likely that you have heard the term in past experiences visiting a hotel too. The term refers to something rather posh and traditional to Britain, which is why many people have never attended this classy occurrence or event before.

The very tradition as the Brits knows it started back in the mid-1700s as a late afternoon meal that got served any time between 3 to 4 o’clock. This English tradition usually took place either standing or sitting down on tall stools, which is why it was named ‘high’ tea.

With traditional English tea, confectionaries like cake, crumpets, and scones would be served. Sometimes even cheese on toast! Although considered a snack for most, English high tea menus are recognized as actual meal menus. It is so popular in modern times that it’s turned into an event with a practical purpose that allows both ladies and gentlemen to gather while enjoying a proper meal before attending a theatre or even card games. However, it’s not just a formal event either and can be as informal as enjoying a cup of tea with a packet of store-bought cookies too.

What Do Sandwiches Have to Do with High Tea?

There is a man known as John Montagu who was the Fourth Earl of a place called Sandwich. Yes, that is a real place. On what could be considered a normal day, he had the idea to place meat and various other fillings between two slices of bread, which then marked the birth of the now-famous sandwich. Thanks to the British empire, the high tea tradition managed to spread globally.

Given the love of sandwiches, the beloved tea break became not one, but two popular traditions that lasted for nearly 300 years.

What is Afternoon Tea?

Of course, you guessed that afternoon tea is a British food tradition too, right? It involves sitting down for a mid-afternoon treat of tea, which is served with confectionaries. Unlike high tea, afternoon tea only became fashionable during the middle of the 19th century by a woman named Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. This afternoon snack was never supposed to replace dinner. Instead, it was intended to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner. With time, lifestyles changed, which evolved the idea of afternoon tea to become a treat instead of a stopgap.

Since the busy working lives of people are alive and well, the purpose that afternoon tea embodied back in the day, and still does in Britain, is no longer the case for the rest of the modern world. The general tea break in Western society and for many other nations is now a quick, on-the-go stop for a takeaway beverage that gets consumed while on the move. For most, it’s no longer an eventful period that can be used to take a break to savor a moment.

Since people do not have time to stop and sit down to enjoy the traditional afternoon tea, high tea has become the only occasion where people take time out of their schedules to enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry or sweet treat in good company. This is not the case for the British, as they are still known to take afternoon tea, and then separately, attend high teas for special occasions and gatherings.

What is High Tea?

The origins of afternoon tea date back to the 19th century, yet high tea was reserved for British workers who had to wait until after work to enjoy tea in a newly industrialized Britain. Once people finished work tea would be served with bigger, almost main dishes instead of tea with cakes. This was implemented because workers needed a larger meal to fill their appetite after a long day of enduring hard labor at work. The cakes and treats were replaced with meals that included a hot filling with a pot of strong tea to reenergize both men and women during that time.

Today, as modernization took place in the past century, the general evening meal in many households is still known as “tea”, but has changed over time and is now known as supper. This meal is traditionally served around a table in a dining area or outside in a garden, which is also served after working hours.

High tea in other parts of the world outside of the United Kingdom are treated as a formal event to celebrate an occasion or even just an afternoon tea with a group of people, the majority being women in hotels or a formal setting.

Why is the Professional Serving of Tea Relevant Today?

Today, due to the busy schedules of the average individual, the online ordering process is considered the saving grace of our time because it allows you to order a meal on your smartphone or computer – something that’s never been done in the history of time.

Today, people don’t only want but need to be as efficient with their time as they can be, which means saving time and cut back on anything that steals time.

To achieve this, automation of everything, even something that seems insignificant in society today, like afternoon tea, is significant. Nobody ever said that they don’t want to enjoy afternoon tea, but given that not you or I have the time to arrange it and sit down for half an hour to a full hour and enjoy a break, the delivery of afternoon tea has become a much-appreciated service. This is just one reason why Fine Diner offers a high tea menu, which caters to both afternoon tea and high tea events.


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