Afternoon / High Tea – History, Traditions, How to

Afternoon / High Tea – History, Traditions, How to

Explore of the world of English tea tradition with us!

Afternoon and High Tea Guide

Today, our worldwide tea journey takes us to Britain. This article would be not informative enough without a statement that nowhere in the world the tradition of tea drinking is as prominent as in Great Britain. We associate this country with the nation of tea lovers, and British people themselves can’t imagine a single day without a cup of this wonderful, aromatic beverage. Everyone’s heard the term “afternoon tea” or high tea, even though the latter is less known – these are the top tea types British are proud of, so let’s unfold their origins in detail.

Story Behind Afternoon and High Tea

The afternoon tea first became a local “mainstream” in the early 19th century. British residents should give credit to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, who initiated this tradition that is now so dear to hearts of millions. Afternoon tea is served around 4 p.m. Notably, it was served to fill in the long gap between lunch and dinner with treats like sandwiches, scones, and cake. Eventually, this tradition has vanished and English people have started considering afternoon tea as a treat rather than a stop-gap.

What is it Like to Drink Afternoon or High Tea?

The way this type of tea tastes might be different for various people around the globe. Of course, for native Brits, it tastes like heaven. They could’ve spent days drinking this beverage non-stop, for its robust, malty, and sometimes tannic flavor enriched with sometimes floral accents makes it incomparable to other types of tea. Foreigners might find the taste of afternoon tea a bit too strong and devoid of sweet scent though. To enhance the taste, milk and sugar can be added. Either way, this beverage needs to be well tasted to unravel all its best qualities and a bouquet of palatable notes. 

Kinds of Afternoon or High Tea

Afternoon tea is very diverse, and you can find lots of kinds and variations of this noble drink. Here’s the list of some of the most top-rated ones:

  1. Earl Grey Tea. Flavored black tea infused with citrusy flavor from the essential oil of bergamot.
  2. Assam Black Tea. Robust and plain black tea with no addition of specific flavors. Perfect to serve with savory foods. 
  3. Sri Lankan Black Tea. Ceylon teas fall into the group of white, green, oolong and black varieties. Yet, Brits favor saturated classic black tea over other types. 
  4. Darjeeling Black Tea. You can choose between spring-plucked Darjeeling First Flush and summer-plucked Darjeeling Second Flush. Both types of this afternoon tea have distinctive flavors – floral and fruity accordingly. 
  5. Chamomile “Tea”. Those who prefer tenderness of taste can opt for this type of afternoon drink, for it belongs to the family of herbal teas with slight apple-like flavor. Chamomile tea is caffeine-free.
  6. Mint Tea. This one doesn’t differ much from chamomile. It also falls into the group of herbal, caffeine-free teas that have a refreshing, calming flavor. 
  7. Rose Congou Tea. This “exquisite” beverage is a combination of black tea blended with rose petals. Its sweet taste will serve as a nice addition to cakes and scones. 
  8. Russian Caravan/Lapsang Souchong. These rather exotic types of tea are a part of smoked black teas family. They are especially appreciated among Brits who like very strong, smoky drink flavor. 
  9. Gunpowder Green Tea. Even though it’s a green tea, the prominent taste it has leaves even the most conservative black tea drinkers not indifferent. 
  10. Lavender Herbal Tea. This kind can be brewed either on its own or along with tea blends. Part of the reason why exactly lavender tea is so popular is its perfumey flavor, which is tender and mild.

How to Serve Afternoon or High Tea?

The full afternoon tea is usually served on either high or low tables with two-course menu. For the first course, scones with jam or finger sandwiches are offered. For the second one, cookies, bite-size or individually portioned pastries, or petits fours are served. You can also customize your tea party and make it either more elaborate (add additional course to the menu) or, on the contrary, simplify it and serve only some sweets of your choice.

As you can see, afternoon or high tea are the drinks with history and accustomed drinking culture. If you want to drink those teas like a British dandy, make sure to follow all the rules we outlined in this review.

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