The Tradition of High Tea

High Tea

High tea with its elegant surroundings, delightful cakes and ample pots of tea, is synonymous with British royalty and aristocrats. This time-honoured British tradition however comes from very different roots.

High tea and afternoon tea are often used interchangeably however their meaning and origins are distinctly different.

During the early 19th century tea consumption in England increased significantly thanks to Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford. Apparently the Duchess suffered from hunger pangs in the afternoon, which she described as a ‘sinking feeling’ in the late afternoon. Around this time it was common for people to only consumed 2 meals a day, breakfast and dinner which was not served until around 8pm. The Duchess decided to satisfy her empty stomach by having a pot of tea and some small snacks in the afternoon. This later turned into a regular social gathering where the Duchess invited friends to join her for tea and a chat. Before long afternoon tea became fashionable with British upper class and royalty. They would spend their afternoons from around 4pm sipping on tea and enjoying small sandwiches, scones, and delicate cakes, while sitting on low comfortable sofas and chairs. High tea is also known as ‘low tea’ because it was usually taken at low tables. Afternoon tea was not only a social event for the upper class but a mini meal to keep them going until their late evening meal.

High tea on the other hand originated in the 19th century in the industrial areas of England, when the working class and factory workers would get home from work around 6pm, exhausted and ravenous. Unable to wait until 8pm for dinner, workers would have a meal with some tea when they got home, which they called ‘high tea’. High tea was a more substantial meal compared to a light afternoon tea, which was served at a high table or kitchen counter, which is where the name ‘high tea’ came from. High tea included breads, cheeses, egg dishes, vegetables, pickled fish, meats, potato, and pies, fruit cakes, and of course plenty of tea. High tea was a necessity for the working class after a hard day’s work, it was like a supper in the early evening so famished workers didn’t have to wait until late for their dinner.

The high class later developed their own sophisticated version of high tea, which is the elegant version tea lovers enjoy today on special occasions in the finest hotels around the world. These gorgeous cakes, pastries, and other goodies served with high tea are certainly delicious but are also usually very high calories, sugar and fats. Overindulging can often leave you feeling bloated and full. Why don’t you try putting on your own healthy high tea with healthy cakes, cookies, sandwiches and pots of Bodhi Organic Tea. Check out your local op shops for beautiful vintage tea pots, tea cups, plates, cake stands and cake forks, and decorate your table with fresh flowers.

How to Have a Healthy High Tea:

Sweet High Tea Treats:

Orange, turmeric and pistachio cake
Chai apple tea cake
Gluten-free carrot and hazelnut cakes
Gluten-free brownies
Mini raw cheesecake with berries
Mini fruit cakes
Spelt scones with berry chia jam and coconut cream
Gluten-free ginger cookies
Chocolate coated strawberries
Hazelnut and chocolate oat cookies
Banana caramel tarts (make in muffin tin holes for mini tarts)
Fresh berries and fruits

Tip: Bake cakes in square tins and cut them into squares and serve topped with fresh fruits, nuts and edible flowers.

Savoury Ideas:

Individual healthy vegetable tarts or quiches.
Sage and cheddar spelt scones.
Crust less sandwiches made with 3 layers of wholegrain breads e.g. Rye, multi-grain, sourdough, to give you sandwiches colour and texture. Cut off the crusts and cut into fingers.

Sandwich Filling Suggestions:

Organic roast chicken shredded with walnuts, celery and healthy yoghurt mayo (Greek yoghurt mixed with wholegrain mustard) with shredded lettuce.
Smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese.
Good quality ham (nitrate-free) with tomato, wholegrain mustard and rocket.
Sliced roast lamb, with mango chutney or horseradish and greens.
Roast vegetable slices (grilled zucchini, roast sweet potato, roasted capsicum) with goat’s cheese and pesto.
Egg with healthy yoghurt mayo and fresh herbs with rocket.


Serve pots of Bodhi Organic Tea. HonesTEA (English Breakfast) and Black BeauTEA (French Earl Grey) are perfect for those more traditional black tea drinkers. ViridiTEA (green sencha and jasmine) for green tea lovers, and then ZesTEA (ginger, turmeric, lemongrass) and SereniTEA (chamomile, lavender, spearmint) are some delightful herbal teas that will go beautifully with your high tea delicacies.

For the warmer months serve with pitchers of iced tea filled with fresh fruits, mint and ice. LongeviTEA (hibiscus, rosehip, goji berries, white tea) makes a delicious iced tea with a splash of cranberry, and ZesTEA with some grapefruit or pineapple juice.

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