Monday, 17 January 2011

High Tea and Afternoon Tea... what's the difference?

I have been meaning to write this blog for quite some time now and well, here it is!

I wanted to outline the distinct differences between afternoon tea and high tea so with the help of Helen Simpson who wrote the wonderful book 'The Ritz London Book Of Afternoon Tea' given to me by my boyfriends lovey grandma this Christmas I shall tell you!

Afternoon Tea

Traditionally this meal was served at 4 o'clock due to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford growing so very tired of the 'sinking feeling' in her poor tummy at around this time. In 1840 she simply decided enough was enough; she was famished so she plucked up the courage to ask for a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake to be brought to her room. Goodness me she was cheeky! Once this habit had been formed she just could not break it and soon it spread amongst her lady friends who started donning long, frilly gowns for the occasion. Tea services kept up to with side plates, bread and butter plates, cake stands and every other accompaniment you could think of. The china was always delicate and the chat kept light with a side of gossip.

Afternoon tea
to this day is a graceful event and brings people together to really chat about life and love over a comforting cuppa and a slice of cake.

High Tea

Unlike the Afternoon tea, High Tea is certainly not a dainty affair. It is usually served at 6 o'clock and divides day from night. It is a very hearty meal, so much so that dinner isn't always a necessity.

What you will find at High Tea...

Heavy brown Firestone teapots with ridiculously strong tea, as they say 'to trot a mouse on' (who says that?) large white, crisp tablecloths, smoked hams, egg and bacon pies, wedges of cheese, potted shrimps, kippers, bread and butter with pots of jam and full bodied fruit cakes.

What you will NOT find at High Tea...

Delicate fingers hooked through pretty bone china, social chit chat or little cakes and scones.

So there you have it the differences are pretty distinct and traditionally they were and still are a very different type of meal in both food, tea and conversation!


  1. At least now when I say to my daughter 'what are you having for tea?' (meaning her dinner/evening meal) I can say it right! High tea. Great post and I can now see why its called tea here and not dinner. Although we say dinner for lunch? I think its a North South thing.

  2. Absolutely! High tea still reigns in the North so that explains the 'what are you having for ''tea' I say that too, but because we have got all mixed up with different cultures and sayings we say dinner and lunch too!!! but at least now you can see where it originates from

  3. very informative! now I know the difference! great post! thanks for sharing.

  4. Thank you so much for telling us the difference between the two t's.
    I love the photo of you ladies at tea. There are some gorgeous tea cups in there too. Are you all dressed up vintage? How fab!