What’s The Difference Between Afternoon Tea and High Tea?

Savoring tea is more than just a social pastime; it’s an art form with its own set of rituals and traditions. Understanding the nuances between different types of tea gatherings is important because while many people may use the phrases “afternoon tea” and “high tea” interchangeably, there could not be a bigger difference between the two!

There are two main types of social teas in the Western world, one being “afternoon tea” and the second called “high tea”- so what’s the difference? 

Afternoon tea is the traditional British mealtime served usually between 3pm and 5pm which typically consists of an afternoon tea menu including three courses of delicate finger sandwiches, scones (with jam and clotted cream) and desserts (also called pudding in the UK) such as small cakes. This tradition of drinking black tea with courses of sweet and savory foods began as a social etiquette tradition in the 19th century, and is an English tradition practiced as a social event globally today. Nowadays, both green tea, herbal tea and black tea (Earl Grey and English Breakfast still being most popular!) are all commonly served. Afternoon tea is also considered much more of a formal social occasion.

High tea on the other hand is very different, and is actually more of a British supper. Traditionally, high tea is served late afternoon into the early evening and usually consists of a savory meal consisting of a meat, starch and vegetable with a cup of tea. For example, if you are invited to someone’s home for “high tea” you may sit down to a casual dinner including black tea and a fish pie.

While both afternoon tea and high tea are served with tea as a beverage, as you can see, they are very different! Inviting someone over for a high tea versus an afternoon tea will confuse your guest if used in the wrong context.

Remember, it’s important to follow good manners, use good social skills and adhere by proper table etiquette when having afternoon tea, no matter if at a restaurant, a tea room, or a private home. Following good dining manners will show respect to both your host and whoever else you are dining with.  To learn more about afternoon tea etiquette, from how to make and serve tea to what to wear to a traditional tea party and more, click here to enroll into our online afternoon tea etiquette course. Remember, pinkies down when drinking tea and enjoy!