What is afternoon tea?
Afternoon tea is traditionally taken at four o’clock – a respectable distance from lunch, and not too close to dinner so as to spoil the appetite. It consists of a complete four-course menu which includes finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, cake, and a choice of tea. The addition of finger sandwiches or savouries as a first course gives this tea the title of “full tea”.
This regal meal offers a choice of tea and a four-course menu of finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, cake, and a glass of champagne or sherry. The addition of a glass of champagne or sherry gives this tea the distinction of being called “royal tea”.
The term “high tea” is often misused by those who like to gild afternoon tea to make it appear exclusive and refined. Although often confused with afternoon tea, high tea is not a dainty affair. Rather, it is a hearty, simple, sit-down meal that originated during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. High tea, in the British tradition, was the main meal of the day for workers who returned home very hungry after a long, hard day in the fields, shops, factories, and mines.
During high tea, everything is placed on the high dining table, family style, and dishes are passed from person to person. The menu offers hot or cold hearty and traditional foods such as meat pies, sausage, cold meats, breads, cheese, jam, butter, relishes, desserts, fruits and of course… tea.