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Afternoon Tea in England: The most quintessential of English customs, Afternoon Tea in England is a light meal composed of three courses – tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and sweet pastries. Can also be referred to as High Tea.
Tea in America: The luxe three-tier affair, involving savories, scones, sweets, and of course tea. This can be a serious business in New York City, with a huge range of additions including salads, sandwiches and pastries.
High Tea in Scotland: In Scotland, high tea takes on further differentiation. A Scottish high tea is not unlike an afternoon tea but will include some hot food, such as a cheese on toast or other savory goodies.
Pictured Left to Right: England, America, Scotland.
Afternoon tea at the most lux spot in NYC, where you can sit and snack on croissants while paying homage to Audrey Hepburn’s iconic character in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The Blue Box Cafe at their New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue opened in 2017 but the hype continues as it is near impossible to get a reservation. Read our blog post for tips on how to get an almost impossible reservation at this cute cafe.
Here’s a modern twist on the classic afternoon tea, a happy hour with tea-infused cocktails located at the Blind Spot Bar in St. Martins Lane Hotel in London. You can enjoy savory and sweet delights served as art, rather than on a typical 3 tier serving platter. A flight of tea infused drinks using the most exotic tea leaves. And yes, at this boutique hotel you will have to find the hidden door to get to this speakeasy tea.
Another boozy tea infused drink menu can be found at Sketch in London. Their tea room that gives ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vibes is perfect for afternoon tea, but enjoy their boozy tea drinks served in bone china at the bar.
Located in Kensington, The Ampersand Hotel hosts afternoon tea in The Drawing Room for an out of this world exploration of its award winning Science Afternoon Tea.
Inspired by the hotel’s South Kensington neighbor – The Science Museum, this Afternoon Tea hosts an interactive menu of sweet and savory dishes while encouraging to play with your food.
Guests can explore a delicious selection of themed treats to put you in the imaginary mind set – become a paleontologist as you dust for dinosaur shortbread cookies & fossil chocolates, experiment in the lab using test tubes to sprinkle toppings on the treats or concoct your own lemonade.
Inspired by the great Victorian values of discovery and wonder with a modern twist in this boutique hotel, it is no wonder they have been a multiple winner of the Afternoon Tea Awards as best themed tea in the UK.
TIPS: Options to upgrade your tea, Science Teapot Tales – comes served with a themed cocktail flight. There is also a kids and adult version of the Science Tea. Be sure to make a reservation.
Exploring the historical rules of tea etiquette and the traditional afternoon tea decorum that is quintessentially British.
Etiquette certainly is a part of the tea’s tradition, but rules have changed centuries since and have become more relaxed especially in America. Dunking the biscuit and extending the pinkie finger are some old customs surrounding tea but this afternoon delight has has developed to become more popular in the states and a more relaxed social event.
Lets start with the Napkin – When seated for tea, the truly formal way is to place your napkin on your lap with the fold towards you. Under no circumstances should a napkin be left on a chair, if excusing yourself from the table, then the napkin should be set back to the left of the plate. Did you know that at the end of dining, by neatly folding the napkin with a crease and placing it back on the left of the plate, that’s an indicator to the host that you wish to be invited back.
Now the tea – This endeavor is called afternoon tea — a pleasurable afternoon affair of small savory and sweet bites accompanied by tea — not high tea, which is considered an early evening supper. When preparing your tea there are many ways in which you can tailor the drink to your own personal tastes, whether that be the addition of lemon, sugar or milk, but one thing stands, you must remember to stir correctly. You do not stir in a circular motion, clinking your spoon against the china. Place your spoon in a 6 o’clock position in the cup and fold the tea towards the 12 o’clock position, back and forth. Whilst making sure not to ‘clink’ the spoon against the sides of the cup. You must also remember to not leave the spoon in the cup, instead placing it on the saucer to the side of the cup.
Let’s dive into the food – a 3 tiered tray of goodies that consist of scones, finger sandwhiches and petit fours. There is some debate on which item to start with – scones or finger sandwiches. Some places serve scones on the bottom tier and others serve the finger sandwiches. Just remember to eat from the bottom tier up — all foods should be eaten with your fingers.
“SC-ON” OR “S-CONE”, however you may pronounce it, there is a specific order to eating it. Split the biscuit in half with your hands, not your knife. Start with the bottom half, spreading the jam and preserves first then the clotted cream on top. It is jam first then clotted cream but if served a warm scone it is ok to put the clotted cream on first so it may seep into the scone.
Table manners – It’s customary for the person doing the hosting to pour the tea and for the teapot to be left on the table with the spout facing the person who poured. If sat at a table, the proper manner to drink tea is to raise the tea cup, leaving the saucer on the table, and to place the cup back on the saucer between sips. The risen pinkie finger, once considered a sign of class and elegance is now one of the most common faux pas of afternoon tea.
Tea is a personal favorite so this week our posts will focus on the history, etiquette, types of tea and general information about this drink that is so much more – its’s a lifestyle.
Let’s delve into the difference between Afternoon tea and High tea – they are completely different types of meals which are used interchangeably as many mistakenly believe that there is no difference. Both of these tea traditions are steeped in British history and are a direct result of their origins.
Afternoon tea is a light meal composed of three courses – tea sandwiches and savories, scones with clotted cream and jam, and sweet pastries. These bite-sized treats are eaten with your fingers. Afternoon tea time occurs around 4pm, between lunch and dinner. The light meal is not meant to replace dinner but instead to hold you over until dinner which was usually at 8pm for the upper class. The concept of afternoon tea started in England in the 1840s when The Duchess of Bedford wanted a small bite between lunch and dinner. It started out as just tea and a small snack. but the popularity grew once she started inviting her friends over and it became a social gathering for the wealthy social class. Afternoon tea is also called ‘low tea’ since they were enjoyed on low tables with comfortable chairs and sofas in the drawing room.
High tea on the other hand was a working class family evening meal or supper. Traditionally, it consisted of hearty dishes between 5-7pm which was after the working class came home from work. Instead of small crustless finger sandwiches, a high tea menu consisted of meat dishes, potatoes, baked beans and other heavy dishes. It was not a luxurious event but meant to nourish after a long day at work. High tea was named for the high dining table where supper was eaten.
So why do people still call it high tea? Because they think it sounds fancier and establishments that serve afternoon tea sometimes call it high tea to market to people. Even in England where afternoon tea originated, you may see luxury hotels offering high tea to attract tourists.
What are the Different Types of Afternoon Tea?
Afternoon tea is made up of three courses of food with a pot of tea – tea sandwiches, scones served with clotted cream and jam, and sweet pastries.
Cream tea is a pared down version of afternoon tea with just one course — the scones.
Royal tea is a pricier version of afternoon tea due to the addition of Champagne.