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Styles of Tea Parties


“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea.”

-         Henry James


Afternoon Tea

Also known as low tea, was “invented” by Anna Maria, the seventh Duchess of Bedford (1783 – 1857), one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting.  In her day, the upper crust ate a huge breakfast, little lunch, and a very late dinner.  Every afternoon, at about five o’clock, the duchess experienced “a sinking feeling.”  One afternoon she instructed her servants to serve tea and little cakes in her boudoir.  The experience was so delightful that Anna Maria repeated it every afternoon thereafter.  Adopted by the queen, the duchess’ secret snack became an elaborate and much loved domestic ceremony.  Today we enjoy several types of English-style tea parties.


Afternoon tea, served between three and five o’clock, is always an elegant snack rather than a meal.  The menu usually includes several kinds of finger sandwiches, scones, assorted pastries (tiny cookies, tarts, petits fours), loaf or fruit cake, and possibly a more elaborate layer cake or trifle as a finale.  Traditionally, this dainty fare was presented on a low side table, with lacy linens and the best china and silver, beside a comfortable armchair in the drawing room.  The Victorian hostess made and poured the tea while gentleman guests handed round the cups and passed the elegant edibles.


Cream Tea

Sometimes called light tea.  This type of tea party consists of hot scones, jam and clotted cream.



This tea is similar to our mid-morning coffee break, is tea with a simple snack.


High Tea

High tea is served from six o’clock on, is a hearty, homey, “sit-down” meal that began as a working-class supper during the Industrial Revolution.  Workers home from the factories and fields were served savory or meat dishes, bread and cheese, and homemade cake or pie at the dining table.

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