Americans have a misconception of a high tea

Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I note in the Nov. 7 Juneau Empire, that Epsilon Sigma Alpha is hosting a "high tea" for the benefit of Hospice and Home Care. A few years ago, Juneau Opera to Go! hosted a "high tea" at the Baranof. There is a common American misunderstanding of what high tea means in England, from where the custom comes.

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What Epsilon Sigma Alpha is having, and Opera to Go! did have, is an afternoon tea. An afternoon tea takes place in the afternoon and traditionally features something sweet (cakes and fancy cookies), as well as dainty sandwiches (often with crusts removed) or buttered toast, or scones with jam and clotted or whipped cream. The custom of afternoon teas derives from a tradition of serving dinner at 8 p.m. or later.

High tea is what Americans would call supper. It is eaten around six o'clock and is more substantial than afternoon tea. It might be sausages and beans on toast, or a mixed grill, or bangers and mash. High tea is eaten by people who aren't having a formal (more or less) dinner.

I suspect Americans think high tea is rather like a high Mass - more elaborate than the ordinary kind. It is the opposite.

Beverly Haywood


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