What is the Difference Between Afternoon Tea and High Tea? Well some would say none, but that is not correct. There are differences, subtle as they may be.

traditional afternoon tea

Traditional Afternoon Tea

What is an Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea is a British food tradition, an afternoon treat of tea, sandwiches, scones and cake. But, often the term High Tea is used. These two are often confused, but actually, they are different.Answer:

Afternoon tea is served around 4.00pm. When afternoon tea became fashionable in the early 19th century, thanks to the Anna, the Duchess of Bedford it was never intended to replace dinner but rather to fill in the long gap between lunch and dinner at a time when dinner was served at 8pm. Lifestyles have changed since those times and afternoon tea is now a treat, rather than a stop-gap.

Afternoon Tea, 1886. Chromolithograph after Kate Greenaway. If you're looking for finger sandwiches, dainty desserts and formality, afternoon tea is your cup.

Afternoon Tea, 1886. Chromolithograph after Kate Greenaway. If you’re looking for finger sandwiches, dainty desserts and formality, afternoon tea is your cup.

The working lives of many do not allow the time to sit down eating scones and cakes, that has now to be saved for holiday and special treat by creating down time to sit and enjoy the propriety and civility of this the quaintest of English dining customs.

One renowned place to find a true afternoon tea is the Ritz in London (bookings are made months in advance. Or, in Yorkshire there is the famous Bettys Tea Rooms which have barely changed since the day they opened in 1919.


What is a High Tea

The origins of Afternoon Tea show clearly it was the preserve of the rich in the 19th century. For workers in the newly industrialised Britain of the time ‘tea’ had to wait until after work and be substantially more than just tea and cakes. Workers needed sustenance after a day of hard labour, so the after work meal was more often hot and filling and accompanied by a pot of good, strong tea to revive flagging spirits.


Today, the evening meal in working class households is still often called ‘Tea’ but as working patterns have changed yet again, many households now refer to the evening meal as supper.

The addition of the word High is believed to differentiate between the Afternoon Tea served on low, comfortable, parlour chairs or relaxing in the garden and the worker’s High Tea served at the table and seated on high back dining chairs.


High Tea in Scotland

In Scotland, High Tea takes on a further differentiation, a Scottish High Tea is not unlike an Afternoon Tea but will include some hot food, such as a cheese on toast or other savoury goodie.



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