There is much confusion over the terms Afternoon Tea and High Tea in North America. The terms are often interchanged incorrectly. Traditional Afternoon Tea is served between 3:00 and 5:00 as a light refreshment to stave off hunger until the later evening meal. It typically includes miniature sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries and fruit as well as cups of tea. On the other hand, High Tea is served around 6:00 and constitutes a substantial evening meal including meat dishes.
The History of Afternoon Tea
Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o'clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.
Later friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.
Occasionally you will see hotels serving a 'high tea'. Traditionally, the upper classes would serve a 'low' or 'afternoon' tea around four o'clock, just before the fashionable promenade in Hyde Park. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial 'high' tea later in the day, at five or six o'clock, in place of a late dinner. The names derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served, high tea being served at the dinner table.
At White Lions Tea House, we compromise a little and start serving Afternoon Tea any time after 1:00 (by advance reservation only).
You can also join us on Sunday, November 2nd for our Downton Abbey Tea Party. Get dressed up in your finest hat and return to a civilized time to enjoy the full Afternoon Tea experience! RESERVE NOW