Gransnet forums


High tea

(40 Posts)
varian Sat 15-May-21 10:54:58

Esther Walker, writing in the "i" advises us that "High tea-is another way to have people round without really having them round. What with the popularity of Bridgerton and the new production of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, I predict a High Tea renaissance. High Tea differs from bog-standard teatime with the addition of savoury foods, such as cut sandwiches and devilled eggs, alongside usual teatime headliners such as scones and tiny cakes. "

Surely what Esther Walker is describing is "Afternoon tea" NOT "High tea"!

High tea, certainly in Scotland when I was growing up, was a family meal eaten around 6pm consisting of a main course, usually hot, such as fish and chips, macaroni cheese, or mince and potatoes with veg, followed by a cup of tea with bread and butter, biscuits and/or cake or fruit tart.

Afternoon tea was enjoyed by ladies of leisure in the elegant restaurants of department stores. A waitress in a black dress, frilly apron and frilly headgear would serve dainty sandwiches - egg and cress, cucumber, salmon, followed by scones or tea bread, fancy biscuits, cream buns, slices of fruit cake, chocolate cake or victoria sponge, and individual cakes such as meringues, eclairs or iced fancies. All served on delicate plates and silver plated cake stands.

I once had a similar, very expensive afternoon tea in Fortnum and Masons so I don't think it's different in England. Am I wrong?

MawBe Sat 15-May-21 11:00:46

With you 100% Varian !
“High tea” was what my granny and grandpa would give us on a Sunday, something hot, like a pie, ( or the dreaded cold tongue salad with of course Salad Cream, in Summer) with bread and butter accompanied by cups of tea
Usually Selkirk Bannock to follow. Not a dainty sandwich in sight!
Can’t imagine Fortnum’s serving it though.

Aveline Sat 15-May-21 11:02:31

Also with you 100%. Do not confuse high tea with afternoon tea!

MawBe Sat 15-May-21 11:04:35

Oh just to add, if I may, in connection with the ladies in the Princes Street tea rooms who kept their hats on while “taking tea”.
My Auntie Agnes who was a rather prim but kindly lady once committed a major faux pas by removing her “costume” (= suit) jacket at the table, forgetting that she was not wearing an actual blouse but a sort of dicky front, popular at the time and designed to sit under a jacket, fastened round the back with tape!

lovebeigecardigans1955 Sat 15-May-21 11:05:37

I think this is a minefield of differing opinions. During Home Economics at school in the mid-60s (East Midlands) we were taught that High Tea was very like afternoon tea but with hot food. No further explanation was given.

In Devon in the late noughties DH and I went to a seaside town and enjoyed what was advertised as High Tea. This was brought to us on a three-tiered cake stand and consisted of posh small triangular sandwiches, a slice of cake and scones, served with either tea or coffee. Completely different to my traditional teaching.

I guess the real meaning has changed over time. Who is right and who is wrong? I'd say just enjoy whatever comes your way.

ixion Sat 15-May-21 11:07:49

In our household, in the 1950s/1960s, afternoon tea would be pm equivalent of 'elevenses' - just a cup of tea and a slice of cake, maybe. When my mother invited people round, that's what everyone would expect.
In those days, we always had our main meal at lunchtimes, so a high tea would always comprise something like a boiled egg, a ham or cheese sandwich, a light pud and a pot of tea. Oh, and homemade cake. Around 5, 6ish in the evening.
This was our daily routine.
Certainly, 'taking afternoon tea' in posh tea rooms, was that. Not high tea.
What does 'Betty's' offer? They should know!

MiniMoon Sat 15-May-21 11:09:04

When I was a child, my Dad would come home from work at 4:45pm. My Mother had high tea ready for 5pm. It was usually a hot main course with cake to follow, or sometimes soup with bread and a pudding (a steamed one) with custard.
Afternoon tea is a very different creature.

Grandmajean Sat 15-May-21 11:14:13

High Tea was very definitely a hot main followed by cake or biscuits ( often home made ) I am living in Cheshire now but this was Scotland in the 50s/60s. It was a very homely and comforting meal and I loved it except when the dreaded "tongue" was served ( usually at at an old auntie's as it was the only dish she deemed suitable for visitors ) I hated the stuff then and now I am sure I couldn't attempt to eat it !

Aveline Sat 15-May-21 11:39:37

Ooh yes tongue. I well remember that being proudly presented with salad as part of a high tea. We had to eat it or no cake!

Visgir1 Sat 15-May-21 11:55:40

Interesting I didn't know there was a difference?

Whitewavemark2 Sat 15-May-21 11:59:15

Yes high tea eaten by grandparents accompanied by tinned fruit and cream.

Afternoon tea just makes you fat

FannyCornforth Sat 15-May-21 12:01:01

Not RTFT ? but yes, you are correct, of course.

varian Sat 15-May-21 12:01:11

Tinned fruit and evaporated milk for us in the 1950s. WW2

V3ra Sat 15-May-21 12:03:20

When we holidayed in Scotland as children, so in the 1960s, my Mum appreciated "high tea" being served in cafés and restaurants as it gave us a decent meal at a child-friendly time.

greenlady102 Sat 15-May-21 12:04:04

that's my understanding too...that afternoon tea is turned into high tea by the addition of one or more savoury hot dishes.

varian Sat 15-May-21 12:09:49

Esther Walker goes on to suggest - "Of course, if you are still in the zero-effort stage of your post-Covid social recovery, you can get away with a pile of cucumber sandwiches and nine boxes of Mr Kipling’s fondant fancies decanted onto plates. "

I think we're all agreed that would never amount to high tea!

Lexisgranny Sat 15-May-21 12:12:56

High tea was definitely far more substantial affair than afternoon tea. I recall when I was young, afternoon tea was taken between four and five pm on the lines of cucumber sandwiches, scones +, Victoria sponge etc. Lunch was served at 1pm. High tea, if it appeared was something cooked, usually served with a pudding, nearer five or six pm, if, for some reason a hot lunch had not been available. Supper was a later affair usually about nine-ish. Dinner was served if you had visitors and was far more elaborate! I wonder whether the more Northern trend of calling the main meal of the day ‘tea’ derives from this.

varian Sat 15-May-21 12:23:40

I think that families with young children tend to call the evening meal "tea". If the children are small and go to bed early they might have their tea before the parents have their evening meal but when children and parents eat together it is generally called tea and would always involve a main course.

I get the impression that this is true all over the country, noy just in Scotland and the North of England.

sodapop Sat 15-May-21 12:25:11

I agree, high tea was a substantial meal in our house, usually the dreaded tongue or ham salad with bread and butter. Tinned fruit with evap as someone else said then a choice of cakes.
Afternoon tea is a much lighter affair with small crustless sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and small cakes. A very enjoyable experience. My husband and I have put these on as fund raisers and find that French people love the idea.

Greyduster Sat 15-May-21 12:45:03

High tea in South Yorkshire has always been a main meal eaten in the evening when folks come home from work. It is usually just referred to as “tea”, as in “is me tea ready? I could eat a scabby ‘orse!” A hot meal with sometimes a pudding, or cake. Lunch was usually soup and/or a sandwich. Supper was whatever you could find! Salad was only served on Sunday for Sunday tea which followed a full roast dinner midday-ish.

silverlining48 Sat 15-May-21 13:02:33

When taken in a fancy hotel restaurant/cafe, afternoon tea is usually finger sandwiches followed by scones jam and cream with fancy cakes all on a cake stand with tea of ones choice. Always cold and sweet.

High tea is all of the above plus something hot and savoury. I didn’t know the difference until I was lucky enough to be treated fir a special birthday to High Tea at the Savoy just prior to lockdown no.1. Couldn’t finish it all and we were provided with a very fancy box carefully packed with the cakes we couldn't manage which we ate for the rest of the week.

Tea at home is either a cuppa or a meal in the evening. I have never understood what supper is.

GranEd Sat 15-May-21 13:21:30

Well I know it’s neither afternoon tea time nor is it high tea time but I’m sitting here enjoying a very tasty tongue and Branson pickle sandwich - made with an equally tasty tiger bread bun and lashings of butter!
Totally amazed at all the scathing comments about tongue.
? ? ?

EllanVannin Sat 15-May-21 13:36:15

High Tea---as mum skittingly used to say, " on the roof ". grin

varian Sat 15-May-21 13:54:53

Esther Walker goes on -

"Seeing grandparents again-Never underestimate how much Boomers appreciate comforting cooking such as pies and puddings made with suet. If you want to cut corners, Asda’s Extra Special Madagascan Vanilla Custard is the best on the high street. In a way, this old-school fare is a blessed relief from cooking in a modern Ottolenghi-style ."

I think Esther Walker is mixing us up with our grandparents.

The very though of suet is disgusting, especially to Grannies like me who don't eat meat. You can call it "old school cooking" because it is the sort of food we had to put up with when we had school dinners in the 1950s.

Charleygirl5 Sat 15-May-21 14:08:18

Money was tight when I was growing up in Scotland in the '50s and occasionally we would go out for high tea and yes, it was a main hot meal usually followed with cakes etc and served with tea. This was usually around 5 pm.