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English High Tea Party Ideas vs. Afternoon Tea Party Ideas

When I heard the phrase High Tea for the first time as a child, I thought it must be some sort of tea that gets you ‘high’!

My curiosity was satisfied when my mother told me that ‘High Tea’ was definitely supposed to give you a high, but only on plain energy and a little fun and not any other kind of ‘high’.

I was kind of relieved to hear that.

English High Tea History and Tradition

The concept of High Tea originated in the UK back in the 1600s. That’s history, yeah I know! But well, we won’t be talking about all the 400 plus something years; instead let’s get only a sneak peek into English High Tea Party Ideas.

High Tea was a daily meal for the English laborers and farmers taken between around 5 and 6 in the evening. Why so late? Usually, we associate high tea with the 4 o’ clock tea, don’t we? But the concept in the U.S. is a lot modified from the original one over centuries. Usually, after a long, tedious day at work, more often than not without a break, the laboring people needed a substantial meal at this time. Elaborate dishes like meat sandwiches, pies or fish dishes were served with tea. So this meal was quite close to being a modern day supper or dinner.

High Tea vs. Low Tea and Afternoon Tea?

If that was the real high tea, is our formal afternoon tea low tea? Well, it is! Now let me set this straight. Ok. Here we go. Though it may surprise you, the word ‘high’ represents the height of the table on which the tea and the accompaniments are served. Since a hearty meal was traditionally served along with the late evening tea on the ‘high’ dinner table, they referred to it as ‘high tea’. And since, the regular afternoon tea is served on ‘low’ tables in our living rooms with some finger foods; it is called the ‘low tea’.

Are we clear? ‘High’ has nothing to do with class or elegance; and ‘low’ at the most represents the ‘low hunger quotient’! So if you are extremely hungry when you return after a long day at work, like the traditional English laborers, go for your dose of high tea with a filling meal; (you may skip the dinner if you are too keen on counting calories!)

Planning Your High Tea Party

For us in the U.S., high tea is synonymous with the afternoon tea and is more about scones and sandwiches rather than meaty meals. High Tea Party is a great way to entertain business clients, formal guests or close friends. Be it an occasion like birthday, graduation, baby shower, a get-together with old time friends or a retirement party, a high tea party will fit perfectly.

The meals are prepared or arranged for before the visitors arrive, so that the hosts can take it easy during the celebration. You can either let everyone serve their own food like in a buffet, if you have many invitees, or pass snacks around the table while you enjoy a hearty time with your guests.

A high tea party can be an intimate affair with only one close friend. With a full tea-pot, a lot to munch on and generous servings of tea, the chitchat can last for as long as the party and even beyond.

High Tea Party Invitations

First we fix a date and next the list of invitees. The kind of invite you might want to send out totally depends on the occasion and the type of celebration you have planned. You may want to send out a formal invitation card followed by a phone call for a more official guest list. Else a casual phone call might be good enough to invite a group of buddies.

High Tea Table Settings and Serving

We tidy up our home, especially the party area and the high tea table. We use the best linens and curtains we have. Or you may want to buy some elegant stuff in case you had been waiting all this while for the right occasion. Sparkling crockery and silverware, all comes out of the closet to beautify the serving area or the high tea table.

Let me tell you how this is the best part of a high tea party. Today’s is the hassle-free world of recyclable cups, glasses and plates. With our best chinaware adding elegance and grace to the entire affair, it brings back the strong connection to the traditional times and gives a polished feel. I bet it is great to feel like that once in a while, ain’t it?

That’s not all; a high tea party has its own set of etiquettes. Do not talk with a filled mouth and never put your elbows on the table. Quite rude and crude! No slurping, no audible chomping. Show courtesy to the servers with a pleasing ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. These include mostly the regular table manners.

High Tea Menu

Now the most important part – designing the carte du jour - the menu! The word menu makes my mouth water almost instantly and we haven’t even mentioned a single delicacy yet! Food is a weakness of most mortals and good food is a rage. Don’t we all love gorging on the yummiest recipes? Whether our conscience and those extra inches like it or not, fact stays fact!

Let’s begin with the main item – Tea. With more than a hundred varieties of teas to choose from, you can make your tea list as interesting as you please. But you might want to go ahead and buy several classy tea pots and make serving those as interesting as the variety.

Black Tea, varieties of Green Tea, Strawberry Tea, Orange Pekoe Tea, Rose Tea, Lady Grey and Earl Grey Tea, Tisanes, Ceylon and Indian Teas, and an interesting assortment of Chinese teas like Rose Congu, make the list almost endless and make it very easy for you to come up with appealing options. With the Internet around, it would be quite easy to learn to brew each one of these and impress the party people.

Authentic, Traditional English High Tea Recipes

Cupcakes, muffins, doughnuts, cookies, sandwiches, calzones, freshly baked biscuits and hundreds of more lip-smacking bread and cake recipes can be included in the menu. The modern ‘high tea’ can include fresh fruit juices, a variety of hot and cold coffees, iced teas in exotic flavors and ales too.

High Tea Restaurants

Fantastic high tea eateries that offer extremely classy high tea experience are The Ritz and The Athenaeum Hotel in London, Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, Palm Court at The Plaza in NYC, The Nest in Melbourne, Australia and many other places across the world. You can find exciting options for high tea at various cruise ships. Also, most of the cruise liners have lavish high tea served with delicious treats for their patrons.

The original concept of high tea has completely transformed due to our modern working hours. The reason why we usually do not need a heavy meal at around five in the evening is the lunch break post afternoon and the sumptuous dinner, both of which are major appetite quenchers. At the most, we go for a cuppa coffee or tea and something light to nibble on. High tea for us, though mistakenly, means an exclusive and grand affair usually on occasions or weekends. Let’s explore English High Tea Party Ideas and have a great time with a right mix of food, fun and frolic, and of course tea!


English Afternoon Tea