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High Tea, Low Tea: Two Beloved Tea Traditions Part 1: High Tea

Posted on 06/14/2023

When you hear the words “high tea,” what images fill your mind? Decorative bone china tea cups with colorful floral designs? Meticulously arranged displays of little frosted cakes and scones? Or perhaps, dainty crustless finger sandwiches served on silver trays decorated with doilies? This delightful, mouth-watering scene of an indulgent tea party is pleasurable to imagine, but “high tea” it is not. “Afternoon tea” or “low tea” would be more accurate terms for the images described above. Does this surprise you? Join us in this 2-part series as we dive deep into the history of these tea traditions to discover what makes them unique and learn new things along the way!


So, what is “high tea,” really? It is a common misconception that the “high” in “high tea” refers to “high society” when it actually refers to the height at which you sit to enjoy the occasion. “High tea” takes place in high-backed chairs at a dinner table and consists of a meal that more closely resembles a hearty supper than a fancy tea party. After returning from work on a farm or in a factory during the Industrial Revolution, “high tea” was traditionally served by working class families around dinner time. Typically, this would consist of small meat pies or baked fishes, potatoes, and vegetables. Roast sausages or sliced meats and other hearty proteins may have been served with the meal, alongside simple staple baked goods like bread or crumpets and a pot of strong, revitalizing tea to energize the tired workers after a long day. In the 1800s, the average working-class family in the UK would have access to both black and green tea. The most commonly available varieties of black tea were Bohea, Pekoe, and Congou, while green tea typically offered the choice of Gunpowder, Hyson or Singlo.


There are a variety of choices for you to enjoy “high tea” at home today! To recreate the traditional meal, start with a supper of roasted meat or fish with a side of roasted potatoes. Make up a pot of our BTP1: Old South Meeting House Breakfast Blend for a taste of the past and a dinner time caffeine boost. For a modern twist, you could enjoy pot roast, chicken pot pie, or even fish and chips with a side of your favorite roasted vegetable. Don’t forget the tea: our ZG26: Organic Gunpowder is strong enough to hold up to the rich taste of a flavorful meal. Or, if you would prefer a cup without caffeine for after dinner, our caffeine-free BA20: Rooibos Superior Organic won’t keep you up at night. Give it a try! We would love to hear about your “high tea.”

Join us in part 2, where we discuss the main event — high society “low tea”!

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