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High Tea and Afternoon Tea

The "tea meals" referred to as afternoon tea and high tea originally started as social dining traditions in England and spread to other English speaking countries in differing forms.

The primary distinction between differing tea meals is the time of day, food served and the location of the meal, according to Marcus Stout, president of Golden Moon Tea Company.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea (also referred to as Low tea) is a light meal typically eaten around 4:00 p.m. Traditionally the tea and food are served on a lounge (or low) table, which is where it gets its name.

Loose tea is served in a teapot with milk and sugar and the tea is usually accompanied by a variety of sandwiches that may include cucumber, egg and cress, tuna, ham, and/or smoked salmon. Scones (with butter, clotted cream and jam), cakes and pastries are served, as well.

While afternoon tea used to be an everyday event, in current times it is more likely to be a treat in a hotel, café, or tea shop -- although some individuals still have a cup of tea and slice of cake or chocolate at tea time. Accordingly, many hotels now market and promote afternoon teas.


High Tea

As an early evening meal with tea served typically eaten between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., it a serves as a substitute for both afternoon tea and the more substantial evening meal. The term comes from the meal being eaten at the "high: or main dining table, instead of the smaller lounge (low) table.

Cold meats, eggs and/or fish, cakes and sandwiches are integral to the meal. Though in a family setting, it is less formal and may include small sandwiches, cookies, pastry, and fruit.

Like Low Tea, this tea meal tradition is no longer a daily standard and has been replaced by a more substantial meal, later in the day. In recent years, high tea somehow became a word for exquisite afternoon tea. In traditional terms, this is not correct.

Source: Excerpts from article published in the November 2007 issue of The English Magazine and written by Marcus Stout, president of Golden Moon Tea Company.

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