English High Tea: What you need to know

  • 02 March 2016

High Tea, or afternoon tea, is a tradition favoured in English culture, but what is it and how can you offer it as a service?

What is High Tea?

High Tea is a meal traditionally served between lunch and dinner that comprises of light snack food, like sandwiches and scones, and tea. Adopted by some of England’s grandest hotels, like the Ritz, and being favoured by the English elite, it is a posh affair for the British.

The History

Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" that many of us have felt between lunch and dinner. To combat this she took to inviting friends to her manor for a pot of tea, a light snack and a walk around Hyde Park. This tradition was adopted by the English upper-class and soon spread throughout the country.

What is traditionally served at High Tea?

There aren’t any rules as to what food can and can’t be served at a High Tea, but it is normally made up of a layer of sandwiches, a layer of cakes and layer of scones, or smaller cakes, on a tiered-cake stand. The more traditional sandwich fillings are cucumber, salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and cheese and chutney – all with the crusts of the bread cut off.

One thing that is essential when serving a high tea is a tea selection. An array of herbal teas is normally presented for the guests to choose from.

Where can I get a High Tea in South Africa?

A lot of high-end hotels serve a High Tea, make sure to book ahead for large groups as it is normally quite popular. A few places well-known for their High Tea are the Oyster Box in Umhlanga, The Patisserie in Johannesburg and the Mount Nelson in Cape Town