Wednesday, October 21, 2015

High Tea vs. Afternoon Tea

This morning I sampled the third and last tea I received from Plum Deluxe Teas in Portland, Oregon.  Unknowingly, I saved the best for the last - Afternoon "High Tea" White Tea.

The tea is very aromatic, both in dry leaf, and finished liquor.  White tea is blended with apricot pieces, marigold petals, and pear essence to produce a mild, wonderful taste.

As you can see, the liquor is lighter in color than black tea.

I blogged about Plum Deluxe 'Reading Nook Blend' Black tea here, and their 'Pumpkin Spice' [A honeybush and black tea blend] here.  I highly recommend the teas.

The fact that Andy [the founder of Plum Deluxe tea] named his white tea Afternoon "High Tea" prompted me to include the difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea in this post.

Andy certainly isn't alone in referring to Afternoon Tea as High Tea.  We Americans are known in Europe for getting it wrong, and with good reason.  Do a Google search on High Tea and the photo images will be elegant, grand, posh teas with gleaming silver, gorgeous bone china teacups, an array of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and delicate, delicious, bite-size desserts.  A search on Afternoon Tea will produce the same images as if Afternoon Tea and High Tea are synonymous and interchangeable.  Since the term High Tea sounds more refined than Afternoon Tea, it seems to have become the most common name for the ritual of tea in the afternoon in the U.S.

[Internet Photo]

But traditionally and historically it's inaccurate. Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford is credited for creating Afternoon Tea in the mid 1840's when she experienced a 'sinking feeling' between the long gap between lunch and dinner.  She found a light meal of tea and sandwiches [cakes were added later] the perfect way to ward off hunger pangs.  She shared her discovery with friends, including Queen Victoria, as one of her ladies-in-waiting, and they in turn shared it with others.  Soon a British tradition was born, which continues to this day.  

High Tea, however, was actually supper for the working class when family members came home from their day's work in the factories.  It was served at a 'high table' - kitchen or dining room table - and was far more substantial that dainty sandwiches.  It also lacked all the elegant accoutrements. Mugs would probably have been used more than dainty teacups, and the hearty fare accompanying full-bodied [strong] tea would have included bread, vegetables, baked beans, cheese, meat pies, or fish. Manners weren't as strictly adhered to as they were at elite, genteel, ladies' Afternoon Teas, and formal attire wasn't required either.

Do you often hear people use Afternoon Tea and High Tea interchangeably as if they both mean the same thing?  Do you make the correction when you hear the term used incorrectly?


  1. That tea surely looks and sounds delicious, even if it is more suited to Afternoon Tea than to High Tea!

  2. I am rigid about calling Afternoon Tea by that name. I teach this wherever I go and personally I am sad to see Americans change the difference just to make it sound more important. I was just at a tea room and they called the 3 leveled tiered tray with everything "high tea". The problem is that they essentially become the
    teachers" and spread this error on to others. I know this because this summer I went to a tea room in Missouri and the sweet owner told me that after seeing another tea room call their's High Tea she got the idea and decided to do the same. (I never brought this up at all) She knew I was from Colorado so she told me her story of visiting a tea room very near us here in Colorado.

  3. So glad you posted this! Both for a local tea to try, but also the correct terminology for tea. It doesn't matter much here, but it certainly does elsewhere. Has always made my family in the UK snicker. But whatever you call it we certainly do enjoy tea! The generic term for dinner...the evening many areas of rural, working class England was...and still is in places.. in "Going to have my tea now" but meaning the evening meal.

  4. This Plum Deluxe tea sounds delicious, and I certainly share your wish to see the distinctions between "Afternoon Tea" and "High Tea" preserved!


Thank you for visiting my blog. If you would like to leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!