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British high tea traditions

British high tea traditions

The quintessential British ritual of high tea has its own; unique tea time etiquette, and traditional charming behaviour.

High tea is a  truly British custom dating back to the 19th century, and now popular worldwide. The custom was started by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. Earlier dinner was served around 9 pm, and to stave off the hunger, the Duchess would have tea and cakes, thus creating a new custom of high tea. The light tea was such a success that, later on, friends were also invited to join. Social ties quickly established among women seeing each other so regularly.

A traditional afternoon tea starts with finger-sized sandwiches, followed by scones with jam, Devonshire or clotted cream, and pastries like cakes, shortbread and cookies. Of course, lashings of tea trail behind. What can be a better way to have a staycation, a few hours of lingering over tea and scones? If the tea was served in tea lounges of luxury hotels, it was often accompanied by light music and even a little dancing.

Soirée in style

Planning for a high tea at home? Well, not so difficult actually, all it needs is proper planning and the right choice of accompaniments. The grandeur of the environment provides a luxurious and tranquil setting to enjoy a range of gourmet delights over high tea.

A tiered cake stand can serve as the table centrepiece. Floral chinaware with a teapot, teacups, and cutlery for serving are required. A little mix and match is also fine, gives an eclectic feel. Cover the table with a pretty tablecloth. String up some bunting for decorations. Keep some flowers too.

Make some name cookies and ice them with the name of the guests, and snaffle them as an entrée. A delightful little touch. Want to give a little take away present to the guests? Then pop the cookies in little paper bags. Set the milk and sugar on the table along with the teapot, no high tea without a teapot. Loose tea leaves are a speciality, they not only enhance the flavour of the tea, but also the overall experience of high tea. During warm weather, iced tea would make a refreshing tipple.

The spread

Assemble the sandwiches just before the proceeding to avoid soggy sarnies. Serve the scones with wash lashings of jam. Tea cakes and buns will be serving split and buttered. Glaze them with some jam to give a professional finish. Individual portions are the key when it comes to cakes. English madeleines, coffee cakes and Morello cherry and almond traybake make tasty options for cakes. Pull out all the stops and serve something special. Lavender fondant fancies, Danish pastries, and little lemon meringue pies make excellent showstoppers.


High tea etiquette

So, what goes into being a classy tea drinker? First things first, smart casual is the dress code for men. For women, it’s a perfect excuse to dress up! While making the tea, there are ways to tailor the drink, but take care while stirring it. Place the spoon in a 6’0 clock position and stir it in the 12’0 clock position. Do not clink the spoon while stirring. add Milk after tea into the cup. Look into the teacup while drinking, never over it. Remember, savouries first, scones next and sweets last. Hold the cup with index finger into the handle, thumb on the top of the handle to secure the cup and third finger on the bottom of the handle. Fourth and fifth fingers should curve gently towards the wrist. In the privacy of a home, it is fine to dunk the biscuits into the teacup, but if you are in a hotel,  do not partake in this.

Getting dress up, sitting with friends and gossiping over petits fours and scones is a perfectly lovely way to spend an afternoon.


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