For the upper classes, drinking tea became a social event, but it also changed the time and manner in which they consumed it. Because many people didn’t eat their evening meal until after 8 p.m., afternoon tea became the transitional meal between meals. Consequently, afternoon tea evolved into a “mini-meal” in and of itself.
All of this was great for the upper classes, but the working classes had a different schedule and a different budget than the upper classes did. Tea was still quite expensive at the time, and the working classes could not afford to spend their money on anything other than essentials like food and clothing. It wasn’t until six o’clock in the evening that a tired factory worker arrived home, and by that time! As a result, in the industrial areas of the United Kingdom (northern England and southern Scotland), high tea became the evening meal of the working class.
High Tea in England was traditionally comprised of a mug of tea, bread, vegetables, cheese, and, on occasion, meat. Additions to high tea could include pies, potatoes, and crackers, to name a few possibilities.
As a result, while afternoon tea was primarily a social event for their upper-class counterparts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, high tea was a necessary meal for those in the lower classes. This traditional high tea is still served in some parts of the United Kingdom’s northern and Scottish regions.
What is the origin of the term “high tea”?
An explanation for why this type of meal was referred to as high tea could be attributed to the fact that it was consumed at a table. On the other hand, Afternoon Tea was enjoyed while sitting in low, comfortable chairs or sofas, as opposed to breakfast. Of course, the upper classes quickly developed their own variation, which they dubbed ‘high tea’ in honor of the occasion. Because it was so simple to prepare, it was a meal that could be consumed even when their servants were absent or unavailable. High tea for the upper class consisted of a fusion of Afternoon Tea and high tea, adding pigeon, veal, salmon, and fruit.
The Afternoon Tea menu in the UK today is commonly referred to as high tea in many other parts of the world and should not be overlooked either. As a result, some hotels, such as The Ritz in London, advertise their Afternoon Tea as ‘High Tea in London’ because many of their customers are from other parts of the world.
Some establishments offer a special high tea menu in addition to their Afternoon Tea service, which includes savory items such as Welsh Rarebit, English muffins, pies, and omelets, among other things.
The modern version is more closely associated with the tradition of afternoon tea. Sandwiches with light fillings, such as watercress or fish paste, may be available. Even simple sandwiches like bread and butter are pretty famous. Scones and clotted cream are every days, and cakes, pastries, petit fours, and other dessert items can be found on the menu. Scones and clotted cream are also standard. When scones and clotted cream are served, the meal may be cream tea or afternoon tea.
However, even in England, where afternoon tea is customary, a more elaborate cream tea is typically reserved for special occasions. Afternoon tea is sometimes served as a weekend meal, or one may choose to attend an afternoon tea at a restaurant, teashop, or hotel. When high tea is mentioned in restaurants outside the United Kingdom, it usually refers to afternoon or cream tea. It will typically include a large number of fancy cakes or pastries in addition to finger sandwiches.
Modern High Tea
In the United Kingdom, it is still common practice to have a quick snack and a cup of tea at 4 p.m. as a rejuvenating break. In particular, with children returning home from school around this time of day, an afternoon snack is usually highly desirable to them. As it is now referred to, high tea would not be served regularly and would likely only be performed on weekends, at parties, or on special occasions.
The recent shift to the use of high tea in the US, which began in the 1950s, is primarily due to the word “high” being used as a synonym for “elegant” or “formal.” The word “high” is also used as a synonym for “formal.” The fact that restaurants and hotels specializing in this dish are often exclusive and expensive, given its history as a working-class meal, is somewhat ironic. People in the United Kingdom looking for this type of meal may prefer to look for a cream tea or afternoon tea, which are still more commonly used to suggest a fancy tea.
Source: My High Tea