High Tea: A Classic British Tradition

A Brief History

Afternoon Tea, High Tea: the terms are almost interchangeable nowadays. However, despite their 21st Century connotations, the origins of the terms could not be further apart from one another. Although High Tea is something that we often associate with the aristocracy, who have the necessary leisure time to take an extra afternoon meal, it actually has much more humble roots than one might imagine.

Homemade Devon scones

The English High Tea

English High Tea started its life in the humble homes of factory workers in the North of England and the South of Scotland, where the industrial revolution was in full force. The hearty meal was designed to reenergise the weary worker after a hard day’s graft, and so consisted of a mug of tea, bread, vegetables, cheese, and meat. Occasionally, pies and potatoes would also feature; this was a meal intended to fortify, rather than one to be eaten for leisure.

 In contrast, Afternoon Tea would be served to upper-class families to bridge the long gap between lunch and a late dinner. It would consist of fine loose leaf tea, sandwiches with luxurious fillings, and delicate cakes and pastries. It was a real treat, and functioned as a social event as well as something to tide the family over until the evening meal.

Devon cream tea at langdon Court

High Tea? Afternoon Tea?

So where on did the name ‘High Tea’ come from, and is it really any different to the Afternoon incarnation?

It’s been suggested that the name derives from the seating arrangement.
Working class folk would have been sat on high chairs, around a kitchen table.
In comparison, those taking Afternoon Tea would be seated in low, comfortable chairs.

High Tea finger sandwiches, Devon

Why, then, do so many establishments offer ‘High Tea’, and why is it that we associate it with luxury? Well, it seems that the upper classes adopted the tradition of High Tea, adapting it to suit their own needs. An upper-class High Tea would consist of many of the normal Afternoon Tea elements, with the addition of veal, salmon, and fruit.

High Tea and Afternoon Tea thus became synonymous, and are regularly used to refer to the same 4pm treat of clotted cream scones and cucumber sandwiches.

Langdon Court High Tea, South Hams Plymouth

High Tea At Langdon Court

At Langdon Court, we offer High Tea, but we won’t mind if you’d rather call it Afternoon Tea.

Our freshly prepared feast features finger sandwiches, scones, an assortment of cakes, and a choice of tea or coffee. If you’re feeling particularly decadent then you can even add a glass of Prosecco to proceedings. High Tea is served from 3pm until 6pm, and can be enjoyed in either our beautiful restaurant or on our spectacular terrace.