Saturday, January 12, 2013

High Tea vs. Low Tea

One of the most misunderstood concepts in tea service is the difference between High Tea and Low Tea.

Most people have a set idea of what English High Tea means: formal dresses, delicate finger foods, and hot tea served on the best china. That could not be further from the truth.

There are two types of tea time in England:

    Low Tea or Afternoon Tea

    High Tea or Meat Tea

Afternoon Tea or Low Tea is what people picture when they think of tea time: tea served with light snacks such as crustless sandwiches, crumpets and scones. This custom originated among the upper classes, as they had both the time and the money to have an extra meal between lunch and dinner. Low Tea is traditionally served at 4pm. Most Tea Houses today serve Low Tea between 3pm and 5pm. 


High Tea, on the other hand, is a full meal served with tea, including meat, bread, side dishes and dessert. The custom of high tea originated in working class homes, where it was the main meal of the day. Working class people did not have time for a leisurely round of snacks and gossip between lunch and dinner. They were working. Tea time for them meant an early supper, served as soon as possible after work. High Tea is traditionally served in the early evening, 5pm – 7pm. 

How in the world did the names ‘High’ and ‘Low’ get associated with tea times? It is all about furniture height. 

"Low Tea", being more of a social event, was usually taken in a sitting room or withdrawing room where low tables were placed near chairs and sofas. 

Whereas “High Tea” was a more substantial meal and eaten at a high dinner table. 

Ironically, most people, including American hotels and tea rooms, tend to say “High Tea” when they are really referring to Low Tea. They associate the word “High” with class rather than serving tables.

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