A Short History of “High” and “Afternoon”
Tea was introduced to England, in the early 1600's.
At first, tea was considered a medicinal beverage and was sold mainly in apothecary shops. Some believed tea would cure almost
any ailment known. Herbal teas, usually referred to as a "tisane," were often prescribed if someone became ill or
didn't feel well.
By 1658, tea had become a fashionable drink of
royalty and the well to do. Contrary to popular beliefs, the serving of afternoon tea originated in France, rather than England,
According to historians, Madame de Sevigne, wrote
a letter to a friend about a “five o'clock tea” she had attended earlier that year. In the letter, she mentioned
her surprise that some people “took milk in their tea.” Afternoon Tea would not become popular in England until
the mid 1740's. Anna, the “Seventh Duchess of Bedford,” is given credit for beginning the tradition.
“High Tea,” is often a misnomer. Most people refer to Afternoon Tea as “High
Tea.” Although High Tea sounds regal and lofty, High Tea or, "Meat Tea" is in reality, dinner.
During the Victorian Period, working families would return home at the end of the day
to find the dinner, or “High” table, set with any manner of meats, bread, butter, pickles, cheese and of course,
“Afternoon Tea,” eventually became known as "Low
Tea," because it was usually taken in a sitting or withdrawing room where low tables (like coffee or end tables) were
placed near sofas or chairs to accommodate guests.
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