Friday, 13 January 2012

High Time for High Tea

On my epic adventure to open a Tea Room in Cardiff, I have spent some time looking at the origins of High Tea. By understanding what it has been and where it originated, I can decide what I want to serve. My intention is to preserve and revive, but who knows I may end up re-inventing High Tea for the future.

Points About This Post 
If you disagree with any of the following account, let me know in the comments.
I realise History isn't every ones cup of tea (sorry). 
If it isn't yours hit the '[SKIP]' button below to get right into my Essential Tea Etiquette Tips

What is High Tea?

High Tea is often a misnomer. Most people refer to afternoon tea as high tea because they think it sounds rather regal and lofty. High tea, or "meat tea", originally referred to the meal we call dinner. Afternoon tea was known as "low tea" because it was usually taken in a sitting room or withdrawing room where low tables were placed near sofas or chairs. So we know High Tea as what was originally Afternoon Tea. There are three basic types of Afternoon:
  1. Cream Tea - Tea, scones, jam and cream
  2. Light Tea - Tea, scones and sweets
  3. Full Tea - Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert

The traditional time for tea was four or five o'clock and no one stayed after seven o'clock. The menu has also changed from tea, bread, butter and cakes, to include three particular courses served specifically in this order:
  1. Savouries - Small sliced sandwiches 
  2. Scones - Served with jam and clotted cream
  3. Pastries - Cakes, cookies and shortbreads
A Brief History of High Tea [SKIP]

Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, we enjoyed two main meals a day, breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread, and beef. During the middle of the eighteenth century, dinner for the upper and middle classes had shifted from noontime to an evening meal that was served at a fashionable late hour. Dinner was a long meal at the end of the day.

17th Century

1600 - Queen Elizabeth l (1533-1603) granted permission for the charter of the British East India Company (1600-1858), also known as the John Company, on December 31, 1600 to establish trade routes, ports, and trading relationships with the Far East, Southeast Asia, and India Trade in spices was its original focus, but later traded in cottons, silks, indigo, saltpeter, and tea. Due to political and other factors, the tea trade didn’t begin until the late 1670s.

1662 - King Charles II (1630-1685) while in exile, married the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza (1638–1705). Catherine's dowry was the largest ever registered in world history. Portugal gave to England two million golden crusados, Tangier and Morocco in North Africa, Bombay in India, and also permission for the British to use all the ports in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, Asia and the Americas thus giving England their first direct trading rights to tea.

As Charles had grown up in the Dutch capital, both he and his Portuguese bride were confirmed tea drinkers. When the monarchy was re-established, they brought this foreign tea tradition to England with them. Her influence made tea more popular amongst the wealthier classes of society. Soon tea mania spread swept across England, and it became the beverage of choice in English high society, replacing ale as the national drink.

18th Century

By 1700, tea was on sale by more than 500 coffee houses in London. Tea drinking became even more popular when Queen Anne (1665–1714) chose tea over ale as her regular breakfast drink. 

During the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the Victorian Period, working families would return home tired and exhausted. The table would be set with any manner of meats, bread, butter, pickles, cheese and of course tea. None of the dainty finger sandwiches, scones and pastries of afternoon tea would have been on the menu. 
19th Century

According to legend, one of Queen Victoria's (1819-1901) ladies-in-waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope (1783-1857), known as the Duchess of Bedford, is credited as the creator of afternoon teatime. Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from "a sinking feeling" at about four o'clock in the afternoon. Who doesn't? 

At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs. Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

Essential Tea Etiquette Tips

Holding a Tea Cup:
  • In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one’s thumb at the six o'clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance.
  • Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up again allows balance. Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer.
  • If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.
Pinkies Up:
  • Originally, all porcelain teacups were made in China, starting around 620 A.D.  These small cups had no handles. Pinkie up does not mean straight up in the air, but slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand. Ghastly.
  • Do not stir your tea, with your teaspoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times. Either place the used teaspoon on the side of another plate or ask the server or hostess to remove the spoon from the table. Never leave the spoon in the tea cup, especially when actually drinking your tea.
Serving Tea:
  • Tea is served with milk, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount. Remove the tea bag from the cup and place it on a side saucer or in a slop bowl. Never squeeze the tea bag.

  • When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Either provide a small fork or lemon fork for your guests, or have the tea server neatly place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Be sure never to add lemon with milk as the lemon's citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle. Ghastly.
Drinking Tea:
  • Finally, do not use your tea to wash down food. Sip, don’t slurp your tea and please swallow before eating.

A Tea Room without a room is just tea. I must continue to tease you a little longer, venue news will be coming very soon...

Stay tuned and keep the faith.

Much love


P.s. you can now follow me on Pinterest
I Want to Bake Free on


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...