Wednesday, June 20, 2018

An Afternoon Tea Primer

“High Tea” has nothing to do with “high society”, “upper class”, or “royalty”. It was actually a more hearty “supper style” meal that included meat between the bread (introduced by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, thus the High Tea Sandwich), and happened to include tea, that was served in the early evening to the “working men” coming home very hungry from a hard day’s work. 

A Brief History of Afternoon Tea

“Afternoon Tea” was started in the mid-1800s by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford.  At that time in history, only two meals were common; a mid-morning breakfast and a somewhat late evening dinner.  The Duchess found herself with a “sinking feeling” in the late afternoon, with the unacceptably prolonged period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess decided to have some friends over for assorted snacks and tea – and the idea of an “afternoon tea” gathering became very popular among the elite, as well as a favorite pastime for “ladies of leisure”. The Duchess ordered a few delicacies and some tea to be brought to her boudoir.  The assortment was placed on her low bedside table, and this became known as “Low Tea”.  As time went on, the Duchess wished to enjoy these delights with friends in a more social setting – and so the parlor became the venue for “Afternoon Tea”.

“High Tea” – an often misused term for Afternoon Tea/Formal Tea/Royal Tea could not be more different from these specific tea formalities. “High Tea” has nothing to do with “high society”, “upper class”, or “royalty”. It was actually a more hearty “supper style” meal that included meat between the bread (introduced by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich and thus the High Tea Sandwich), and happened to include tea, that was served in the early evening to the “working men” coming home VERY hungry from a hard day’s work.  This meal, like “Low Tea”, is so named, due to the height of the table on which it was served – to accommodate the height of the men who typically stood at the table or sat on high stools to feast. This meal gradually became more important on the social calendars of Ladies and Gentlemen and was enjoyed prior to social events like attending the theater or playing cards. 

On a quick note, “Royal Tea” or “Champagne Tea” simply mean a delightful addition of the bubbly to the occasion. 



Meet our newest contributor, Jonnie Fox Flanagan. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana she enjoyed exquisite dining at famous and fabulous restaurants such as Brennans, Arnauds, Commander’s Palace, Emeril’s, before moving to southern California. Ms. Flanagan, busy as the lead singer of Jonnie Fox and the Satinettes, also founded The Magnolia School of Etiquette and Protocol, offering classes in the art of fine dining, good manners, and the social civilities that enhance our society with kindness and graciousness. Workshops include private consultation to brides, business professionals, individuals, university etiquette dinners, corporate conferences, and group workshops for children ages 5+.


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia