English Tea Time Customs
Are you enjoying afternoon or high tea? Do you know the difference?
High tea is served in the afternoon. Some people think the word sounds regal, so it is used to describe tea served late in the day or for dinner. Most generally, it is served with pastries or cakes.
Early afternoon tea is called low tea, because it is most generally served in a sitting room, where there are low tables. In England, the traditional time to serve tea is between three and five o’clock during the week.
English tea is black tea, which is robust and has a rich flavor. It is intended to be served with milk and sugar. It is known as Black Keenum and it originates from China. It tends to have a smoky flavor and a very strong aroma.
The history of tea dates back to the nineteenth century England. The Duchess of Bedford needed something substantive to eat and drink between lunch and dinner.
Tea was served with a light snack such as bread and butter. The tradition of afternoon tea has expanded to include pastries and scones and other tasty delights to go with the tea.
It soon became a social event, when Anna the Duchess of Bedford invited friends to join her. The menu expanded to include small cakes and sweets. Tea was served in a silver pot and the pastries were served on the finest china.
English tea gardens became popular. Tea was served outdoors and grew to include orchestras, concerts and games. The afternoon tea break became an event.
In tradition, the afternoon tea party is usually an event marking a special occasion or a visiting friend. Most generally, it is a formal occasion, where ladies dress up, or it could be an informal event. In the 1900’s, Emily Post made note that servants should never come into a room during the tea, unless asked. She noted, that this interruption was rude and disrupted the flow of conversation.
However, you do not need a formal tea room, beautiful china and a silver tea pot to enjoy a cup of English tea. However, across the United States there are tea parlors and shops, that you can enjoy a cup of tea possibly at an outdoor café. Or, invite some friends over for a cup of tea and have your own private tea party.
In the United States, if you visit a tea room or parlor, and request a cup of English tea, you will be served some bite sized sandwiches such as cucumber and cheese or roast beef and cheddar. The next course would be crumpets or pastries with butter. The idea is to enjoy your tea in a relaxing atmosphere by yourself or with friends.