What is high tea? History | Origin | Difference


High Tea, British High Tea, or Afternoon Tea – you may have heard these names but might not know much about them. Let me clear up your confusion and provide you a clear understanding of High Tea and Afternoon Tea. 

What is high tea?

High Tea is a cherished tradition that originated in Britain during the 19th century. Opposite to popular belief, High Tea does not refer to formal tea. Instead, it is a regular tea meal enjoyed in the late afternoon or early evening, typically between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Originally introduced as a working-class meal, High Tea provided satisfying food for laborers returning home after a long day of work. It differs from Afternoon Tea as it includes a variety of sandwiches, savory pies or quiches, scones, cakes, pastries, and, of course, a pot of tea.


Traditionally enjoyed by families, the main purpose of High Tea was to satisfy hunger.

History of high tea?

High Tea holds both cultural and historical significance, shaping its identity over the years. Historically, it originated during the 19th century, coinciding with the industrial revolution. After a laborious day, High Tea provided a substantial meal that replenished energy levels and satisfied hunger.

The term “high” in High Tea refers to the height of the dining table, which was typically a regular dining table rather than a low tea table. This distinguishes it from the elegant Afternoon Tea, which is associated with the upper class.

Culturally, High Tea has evolved significantly over time and remains deeply embedded in Britain’s social fabric. It is often associated with comfort, warmth, and familial bonds. Families and friends gather around a table, enjoying savory and sweet delicacies, warm cups of tea, and creating cherished memories together.

Origin of High tea?

The origin of High Tea is mainly associated with the 19th-century industrial revolution. In Britain, tea gained popularity during the 17th to 18th centuries, initially being a luxurious beverage enjoyed by the upper class who embraced the ritual of Afternoon Tea.


However, the working class had different needs and invented High Tea as a full, robust meal in the late afternoon or early evening.

The term “High Tea” itself has caused confusion. The word “high” does not imply superiority but rather signifies the use of a high dining table.

Over time, High Tea crossed its working-class origins and became a cultural practice embraced by various social classes.

Difference between high tea and afternoon tea?


High tea and afternoon tea are used interchangeably, but both are totally different. Both originated in the 19th century in the same society but in different classes which makes them different from each other.

Where high tea was invented as a working-class meal, afternoon tea emerged as a social tradition among the upper class. 

The origin of afternoon tea is associated with Anna the Duchess of Bedford, who desired a light meal to satisfy her hunger between lunch and dinner.

We can also see the difference between high and afternoon tea timing.

High tea is usually served between 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the late afternoon or in early evening. When the working class returns from their work and enjoys a robust meal with their cup of tea. Which helps them to satisfy their hunger after a long working day.

But afternoon tea is served between 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., where the upper class takes their cup of tea with some light refreshment to bridge the gap between lunch and late dinner.

There are also differences in the menu of afternoon tea and High tea. Well, in high we find full meal dishes, but in afternoon tea we do not see any full meal dishes. Only a few refreshments are served to bridge the gap between lunch and late even in dinner.


In high tea, we see the dishes like meat pies, quiches, sandwiches, cheeses, and bread. Sweet treats such as cakes, pastries, and scones. but in the evening tea menu, we do not find any full meal dishes.

Where High tea was traditionally a meal enjoyed by the working class in their homes. Afternoon tea was a social event for the upper class.

High tea has a more relaxed and informal atmosphere. Where the people relax after a long working day and enjoy their meals. But in the afternoon tea has more formal etiquette.

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