Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is High Tea Higher in Societal Rank than Afternoon Tea?

Every time the topic of having tea pops up, then comes the inevitable question:

 "Are you going to have High Tea?"

So, here we go. The unspoken, intimation of the question is as follows:

Is 'High Tea' higher in stature, formality and societal rank than Afternoon Tea? 

The sad answer, dear reader, is unfortunately a "No."

High Tea was originally served on high tables at 5:00 pm for the working classes, mostly the miners up from the mines, who had not eaten anything all day. High Tea is a heavy meal consisting of hot meats and savory fishes, with vegetables and breads.

Afternoon Tea, dating back to the 1800's, is the familiar, quintessential British tradition served mid-afternoon consisting of a light three step menu first of cucumber and salmon sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and clotted cream, then finally cakes, chocolates and sweets. Sometimes champagne is included!

Then comes the question about how to eat the scone. Keeping with the Christian tradition of "breaking bread," the scone (and for that matter all breads) should be "broken" not cut. Each bite of bread should then be further broken and individually buttered or in this case spread with the clotted cream, then the jam on top. This order assures one the jam will not spill out all over the place as the jam is thinner and more malleable than the clotted cream. Less of a mess.

Breaking off each bite of scone, then spreading each piece individually with clotted cream then jam is more laborious, but neater to eat than spreading the whole of the broken half of scone with clotted cream and jam, then trying to maneuver a lady-like bite out of the whole mountain-like huge pile of decorated scone. Again, less of a mess to maneuver and consume.

After you pour your tea into your china tea cup or mug, add the sugar first if you take sugar, then add your milk if you take milk. This way, the sugar will dissipate easier in the hotter liquid. Never use cream in your tea as it is too rich and disguises the flavor of the tea. Never add lemon to your tea if you have milk, as the lemon will curdle the milk. Honey is a nice alternative to sugar and milk.

Pinch the handles of your china tea cup. Never put your fingers through the handle as a finger may get stuck! Putting your pinkie finger out is also passé! No need. Try to not "clink" your teaspoon inside your teacup whilst stirring your tea and please place the teaspoon behind your teacup solidly on the saucer.

Take your time, and enjoy the experience of having your tea, whether Afternoon Tea or High Tea. Cheers!