What to call your tea party: Afternoon Tea or High Tea?

March 24, 2022
Afternoon Tea

Spring is here and women are gathering for tea parties in sublime hotels, cafés  and museums across the country. There is, however, an enthusiasm for calling this experience High Tea that is unfortunately incorrect. High Tea definitely sounds like a more elegant version of a simple Afternoon Tea, but it is quite the opposite.


Afternoon Tea, or low tea” as it is sometimes called, was traditionally served in the late afternoon between lunch and a late dinner. It was a light fare of finger sandwiches scones and jam, with a bit of fresh fruit, dessert, and, of course, a fresh pot of tea. It was often enjoyed in a parlor or a sitting room at a low table that would sit in front of a couch or overstuffed chairs. It was primarily enjoyed by women.


In contrast, High Tea, also known as “meat tea”, was a hearty meal served at the kitchen table, traditionally a high table, after a long day’s work mostly by men. It consisted of stews, meat pies, and rustic breads and cheeses, along with a large pot of strong tea.


I find mistakes like this fascinating. Incorrect conclusions of all sorts are often made based on assumptions that we believe to be true, many times because we’ve observed a respected organization or individual unknowingly make such a mistake. The Afternoon Tea and High Tea mixup is minor in the scheme of things, but when I witness how pervasively it continues to be misused, it reminds me to dig a little deeper on some of the “facts” that I have based my own conclusions on.


It’s an interesting subject to perhaps discuss over a pot of tea with friends. That’s what Afternoon Tea is really about, after all.


Sharon Butler