history of high tea
“At half past three, everything stops for tea.” Jack Buchanan
The fascination with afternoon tea started around 1840. It is said to be around this time that Anna Marie Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, complained of feeling faint one late afternoon. At the time, it was common for people to have 2 meals each day, breakfast and dinner around 8pm. The remedy for the Duchess was a hot pot of tea and a light snack. When the Duchess returned to London, she invited friends over for tea, small sandwiches, and dainty desserts in the afternoon. Soon socialites throughout London were sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon amongst friends in their drawing rooms.
Traditionally, the upper class would serve a “low” or “afternoon” tea around 3 or 4pm. The middle and lower classes would have a more “high” tea later in the day at 5 or 6pm, in place of a late dinner. The names derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served. High tea is served at a high or dinner table; and afternoon tea is served at a low or coffee table.
In the early 1900’s, this British tradition made its way to America, taking place in posh hotels and women’s clubs. Although, the British still consider it afternoon tea, it is known as high tea on American soil. Today, “high tea” takes place across the country in hotels, tea rooms and quaint quarters. Linen draped tables and 3 tier trays of sweet and savory treats; accompanied by hot pots of tea are enjoyed in the afternoon. Making it a wonderful way to celebrate life’s moments or just simply treat yourself.