On the grand ocean liners of Cunard ‘Afternoon Tea’ or ‘High Tea’ was a must thing for every guest to experience this amazing white gloved waiters serving delicate finger sandwiches and scone with clotted cream from Devonshire and strawberry jam. This believed to have originated in the early 19th century. Duchess of Bedford would order tea bread and cakes to stave off the hunger between lunch and dinner. Afternoon Tea continues to be a trend. Many leading hotels serve afternoon tea from about 3 pm until 5 pm. The fare along with afternoon tea starts with savoury finger-sized smoked salmon, cucumber, or egg and mustard cress sandwiches, which is followed by scones with jam and cream (clotted cream in Devon), and finally a selection of cakes mostly simple jam tarts, victoria sponges, fruit cake (I do a mix of a contemporary version of my own).
Tea is traditionally served from heavy, ornate, silver teapots into delicate bone china cups. Milk or lemon served with the tea is still a personal preference. The sandwiches, the scones and the cakes should arrive at table on tired cake stands. This was all well and good for the upper classes, but the working classes ran to a different schedule and a different budget. Tea was still quite expensive at the time and the working classes could not afford to waste it on anything other than necessities. A worker wouldn’t arrive home until six in the evening from the factory and when he did, he was famished! Thus, in the industrial areas of the UK (northern England and southern Scotland), the working classes evening meal evolved: High Tea.
Why is it called High Tea?
A possible explanation why this type of meal was called High Tea is the fact that it was eaten at a table. In comparison, Afternoon Tea was taken while seating in low, comfortable chairs or sofas. Of course, soon after, the upper classes developed their own variation and also called it ‘High Tea’. It was a meal that could be eaten when their servants were away or not available, as it was so easy to prepare. The upper class ‘High Tea’ involved the amalgamation of Afternoon Tea and High Tea, with the addition of meat, jams, pies, fruits and cold dishes such as pates and terrines.
The Dochester, Ritz are some of the top spots in London if you want to experience it the real way. I quite like the one at the Peninsula in Singapore. Our hotels now blend in a mix of the classic fare but also fuse it with typical ‘chai nashta’ such as mini samosas, tikkis, and often chaat too. A bubbly or Champagne high tea is definitely if you want to pimp it up. I was introduced to it while I was at The Taj Mansingh a few years ago.
Do stop by at Nido and get a taste of Tea and get in high spirits!