English Tea Party Recipes

Tea is much more than a mere drink in Britain. It is a solace, a mystique, an art, a way of life, almost a religion. It is more deeply traditional than the roast beef of old England....This khaki-colored concoction, brewed through an accident of history from an exotic plant grown thousands of miles from fog, cricket and left-handed driving, has become the life-blood of the nation.
Of all the stereotypical tokens of England, like the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and double-decker busses, and tea tops the list. Tea is to England what apple pie is to America. English tea is steeped in tradition and more than a beverage of choice; it's also an important element in the social history of Britain. English High Tea is one of these traditions that are still an important element in the life of the British elite.

The practice of serving English high tea is often imitated, but never duplicated. In North American resorts, hotels and tearooms, English high tea is often served in early afternoon with an array of sweets and pastries. While certainly elegant, these are not true ""high teas"".

In order to explore the proper method of serving English high tea, you must first understand a little bit about the history of England. When the practice of taking high tea was first introduced, the people of England enjoyed two main meals each day: breakfast in the morning, and dinner in the evening.

The breakfast meal usually consisted of bread, beef and ale, while the evening meal was a veritable smorgasbord. This meal, served as the sun began to set, would come to be known as ""high tea"".

The English high tea that we know today was introduced by Anna, Duchess of Bedford. She was fond of inviting friends to dinner and would often experiment with the high tea menu. As other ladies of society began to follow suit, ""English High Tea"" quickly became a popular time for social gatherings.

Popularity of the English high tea gained momentum during Industrial Revolution, the second half of the Victorian Period. Working men and women returned home exhausted and prepared high tea for refreshment.

The table was set with quick and easy food choices including bread and butter, cheese, meat, pickles and of course, a pot of tea. There were no fancy finger foods, tiny crust-less sandwiches or rich desserts that adorn today's mock ""high tea"" tables.

As a final note, the evening dinner tea was served at a high dining table, rather than on lower tea tables. This presentation may have been the basis for the name of ""high tea"".

Trying to impress your North American friends with an English high tea party? You may pull it off by serving some fancy sandwiches and sweets. But, if ever called to task with British guests, you'll need to wait until the afternoon sun begins to fade and serve your tea with some hearty fare. That's how to enjoy English high tea, the way the English do.

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About The Author, Daniel Jowssey
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