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Did you know that all the different tea times in Britain have a specific name? Pretty neat. Afternoon tea and high tea are sometimes used interchangeably but if you really know your British tea habits, you will know they are nowhere near the same. Afternoon Tea is more for the non-working class or those who have plenty of afternoon time while high tea is for the working class. (aka: most of us busy people)

Afternoon Tea

If you’re like me, you’re snacking between lunch and dinner because it feels like such a long gap of no food. This is exactly what afternoon tea was designed for. Afternoon tea emerged in the early 19th century. This tradition is carried out at 4 pm and everyone sits down with their cuppa & nibble on some sandwiches and scones. Back then, they often ate diner very late back because afternoon tea fulfilled their hungry tummy’s. Then they usually serve dinner as late as 8pm. (I’d be starving)

In today’s day, they simply use afternoon tea as a refreshment, not a decadent meal. Not many have the time to sit down and enjoy many scones & cakes at 4pm. They are working and getting along with life. Ever wanted to try out this tradition? Check out some of the famous tea rooms in Britain.

High Tea

As we said above, many are working during afternoon tea so they have to wait til after work to enjoy their cuppa. Since they are enjoying after work, they are usually very hungry so the meal that comes with the tea is little more hearty. Some may even refer to this as supper because it is basically a full meal.

 

-Alexis

 

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In my last post, I talked about a couple of tearooms in the UK which are especially dear to me.  In this post, I’d like to invite you to spoil yourself, indulge in tea, companionship and culinary delights in the wonderful world of High Tea.  High Tea or Afternoon Tea is a British institution that is enjoyed by many throughout the globe.  I wanted to share with you two of my favourite spots in the UK.

There are several Bettys Café Tea Rooms in Yorkshire.  Known affectionately as Bettys, I had the privilege of spending afternoon tea at Bettys in York and it ticked all the right boxes.  The hall mark of a great place is if there is a queue of people eagerly waiting: 10, 15 minutes, maybe even 30 minutes before opening time.  It kinda reminds me of my favourite Dim Sum Restaurant in Manchester but I digress 🙂 

From the moment you walk in you cannot fail to ooh and ahh at the beautiful art deco setting.  As the website suggests, it’s the elegant wood panelling, beautiful mirrors and stunning windows that makes you feel as if you’re on a luxury liner (without the sea sickness).

Interior of Bettys as shown on their website

Interior of Bettys as shown on their website

Afternoon Tea is a treat.  It’s a way that friends or family can reconnect, relax and take time with tea which is how tea should be taken.  Bettys doesn’t disappoint on that score.  Once the oohing and aahing stops you are welcomed by fabulous staff who take you to your seat.   More ooh and aahs and smiles galore as you admire the décor in detail.

Then there is the food and that certainly doesn’t disappoint either.  The sandwiches, scones, cream, preserves and petit fours were beautifully presented in pristine silverware for that true sense of luxury and indulgence.  I bought some Yunnan tea as a memento of my wonderful experience.

The "spread" at Bettys (also as seen on their website)

The "spread" at Bettys (also as seen on their website)

So from the beautiful city of York, back down to my former home, London, where I had the pleasure of afternoon tea in so many beautiful places including Claridges, Wolseley, a hotel that served afternoon tea with breadless sandwiches (!) and I also had the pleasure of sharing afternoon tea with Jane Pettigrew at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel.  The one place I remember fondly though is afternoon tea at The Palm Court in Sheraton Park Lane.  The room is just breath-taking with its beautiful art deco setting.  The symmetry of the bar area with the beautiful clock is astounding, but in sitting in the art deco lounge, with the harpist playing in the background, I closed my eyes and imagined I had gone back in time. 

Palm Court Bar

Palm Court Bar

There was quite a wide range of teas to choose from (I opted for Darjeeling), but the way afternoon tea was served was truly memorable.  Rather than the standard three tier cake stand, in keeping with art deco, a two-tier S-shaped stand was presented with the sandwiches placed on the bottom tier.  The next “course” came, with a delightful waiter presenting beautiful warm scones. 

[Picture 4 here]

Afternoon Tea at the Sheraton

Afternoon Tea at the Sheraton

The final treat came when the waiter brought a wonderful trolley of desserts which he took great delight in explaining in fine detail.  Unfortunately I didn’t hear a word he was saying as I was drooling over the treats trying to figure out which one to try first J  Apart from the business man having a very loud Skype call (which the waiter soon addressed: another sign of excellent customer service), this experience was truly spectacular and one not to be missed if you ever have the opportuni-tea.

Afternoon Tea Trolley at the Sheraton

Afternoon Tea Trolley at the Sheraton

Get the British tea touch wherever you are with authentic teas and British foods.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“High Tea” has changed since it began in the 1600s. This evolution has taken a strong turn from its origins. These days, many tea rooms in the U.S. tout “High Tea” as their most special tea of the day, a time to serve taste-tempting dishes like crab salad with mint and lime and dress up fancy, all the way to hats and white gloves. But was it meant to be this way? The word “high” in “High Tea” could be the culprit here. A look at where the term comes from will add a bit of clarity and show how far tea rooms have veered from the original “High Tea.”

Let’s go back in the “tea time machine” to when tea was an expensive luxury enjoyed mainly by the aristocracy in such European countries as The Netherlands, Belgium, and Great Britain. They usually had tea with simple foods like buttered toast or cake. It was generally served in their drawing rooms or private palace chambers on a low table similar to today’s coffee tables. This was meant simply to tide them over until dinner time, which was served later and later in the day.

As tea became less expensive, the middle class joined in this custom. Eventually, the laborers in factories, etc., were able to afford and enjoy tea, also. For many of them, tea time was in their kitchen and took place a little later in the day (around 5 or 6 pm), a time when many of us here in the U.S. eat our dinner (or some call it “supper”). The foods served were more like a full meal and 99% of the time included some type of meat dish. This came to be known as “High Tea” because it was served at the high table in the kitchen. Tea time for the upper classes/aristocrats came to be known as “Low Tea” or “Afternoon Tea.” So, the “high” in “High Tea” did not mean “superior” or “fancy,” as some now think.

“High Tea” isn’t the only instance where this misinterpretation exists. People hear the term “High German” (hoch Deutsch) and think it’s German spoken by the more educated residents. Instead, it means German spoken by residents in the higher elevations, such as the Alpine areas in Bavaria. Just another example of how the word “high” can cause confusion.

Today, the term “High Tea” is used to indicate a fancy teatime, often where the tearoom charges a higher price. It’s hard to tell if they charge more because of the name “High Tea” or because of the menu, which often includes dainty and expensive dishes. One thing is certain: the event has been “fancied up” so that it no longer even remotely resembles the original version. Attendees are encouraged to wear nice dresses and white gloves for the women and suits and ties for the men. Members of the women’s group known as The Red Hat Society routinely attends these events in tea rooms throughout the U.S.

A few drawbacks here. For one, the fancy nature of the nouveau version of the “High Tea” tends to promote the idea that tea and teatime are more for women. A lot of men are turned off by the bite-size portions and dainty atmosphere. One tea room even launched their “High Tea” on Mother’s Day. Another drawback: a price range that averages from $22 to $85 per person can tend to limit such events to the special occasion category. Of course the price tends to be higher in areas where, well, prices tend to be higher, such as The Russian Tea Room in New York City and another place in Beverly Hills, California. (In both locations, there is a tendency to think that, the higher the price, the more classy something is.) Tea rooms located in the other 46 contiguous states are priced in line with their local market.

All hope is not lost, though. There’s a tea room that hubby and I would go to when we first met that serves a much more authentic “High Tea.” We had a choice of real steak-and-kidney pie, lamb curry, and shepherd’s pie, along with breads and cakes, and, of course, pots full of delicious teas. All for about $15 per person. Maybe it’s time to get back to this version of “High Tea” and thus counter the frou-frou image some have of teatime.

Or maybe you he-men out there could look at those bite-size bits as being just as manly as a slab of barbecued ribs and tea as a beverage as manly as the stoutest alcoholic brew.

Just a thought. Enjoy!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So much in a little cup of tea

So much in a little cup of tea

Tea with its antioxidants and immune boosting properties is not only nutritionally regenerative, but its external properties are restorative as well. One of the only Far Eastern traditions to find a real home in Western civilization, tea rituals are shared world wide. Tea, and the rituals surrounding it, bridges the gap between many different peoples around the world. Regardless of different cultures and lifestyles, tea serves as a universal touchstone.

In the East, it’s at the very core of life, whether in an Egyptian café or a Chinese village. Tea is the drink that helps business associates finalize a deal. It is the drink over which secrets can be shared. It soothes the mind, body and spirit and reaches across generations.

In the West, tea is still frequently regarded as the drink of royalty. In France, though tea’s still not commonplace, it’s rapidly gaining in popularity. In the UK, however, tea is woven into the fabric of their culture with the ritual of high tea being a time-honored tradition.

In Morocco, mint tea is used to welcome visitors and is a generally accepted sign of hospitality in the region. In Japan, tea is enmeshed into the whole experience of Zen. All elements of the tea ceremony translate into the culture from architecture to calligraphy to landscaping and flower arrangement.

The English echo this pattern with their tea as they enjoy their formal tea gardens that are ordered and harmonious. Whether simple or elegant, these gardens complete the bonding aesthetic that tea offers to all who imbibe.

The United States striking its independent blow with the Boston Tea Party has long since left the grudge behind, and enjoys tea as a part of daily ritual. Just as in the East, deals are sealed over a cup of tea and just as in the West, tea is enjoyed as an afternoon respite.

Tea brings people together. It reaches across oceans as well as across generations, and where people otherwise cannot connect there seems to be a way for even the most stubborn to be able to meet over a teacup.

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© Online Stores, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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