How Do I Serve High Tea at Home?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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When serving high tea at home, a broad assortment of tea flavors and fine finger foods should be presented to guests in an elegant and fashionable manner. A mixed and matched set of tea serving instruments may be used to provide eclectic and traditional charm to the meal, although each piece should be made of fine china or porcelain. Guests can be made to feel comfortable in a relaxed environment that revolves around a uniquely set table that displays the foods, teas, and serving ware that will be enjoyed during the course of the afternoon.

When serving high tea at home, it should begin promptly at four o'clock in the afternoon. Other serving times may range between three and five in the afternoon, but these cannot be considered high tea. This occasion is differentiated from standard afternoon tea by the more extravagant amounts of food served. High tea is often used as a substitution for dinner, depending on the types and amount of food present.

The type of serving ware used during high tea at home is usually characterized by its formal nature. Fine china tea cups and teapots, linen napkins, and silver eating utensils are traditionally used. A sugar bowl and cream bowl should also be present, as well as numerous dessert plates, dessert forks, and teaspoons. The serving table may be additionally adorned with lace or paper doilies to hold serving trays of food, and seasonal displays of flowers.


A wide variety of tea flavors should be offered during the afternoon tea time. This variety allows guests to sample different blends, from dark and exotic flavors to light, herbal remedies, in the course of one afternoon. To create a traditional high tea at home, the tea should be loose leaf, and brewed in separate, small tea pots. Some hosts may prefer to offer each guest their own pot and signature tea to enjoy for the entire occasion. Less formal high teas may include the use of tea bags, in which each flavor may be sampled one cup at a time, and teapots contain only hot water.

Any type of small finger foods may be served for high tea at home. These can include different types of sandwiches, petit fours, scones, cream puffs and egg souffles. Similar to the variety of teas made available, guests should be allowed to choose from a wide selection of food items to fill their plates. All food should be arranged in a pleasing table presentation that is as beautiful to the eye as it is delicious to the palate.


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Post 3

@bluedolphin-- I believe high tea started off because laborers or students would return home at this time, tired and hungry. But it was not yet time for a full course dinner, so mothers and wives would serve tea along with finger foods, small sandwiches, breads and cakes with jam, etc. This would tame everyone's hunger until it was time for the full meal. Slowly, it started being enjoyed by the upper classes in England and spread as a daily event.

The idea remains the same today and it is now practiced by different cultures as well. For example, Indians have their own high tea. When husbands return from work wives serve chai tea and fried snacks or cookies. The way that high tea is served may vary a little from household to household and culture to culture.

Post 2

@bluedolphin-- The article has already mentioned this! A variety of teas can be served and in fact may be desirable if there are guests who do not like black tea. So you may want to have black tea, green tea and a herbal tea available. Those who want to serve only black tea may want to give the option for different types of black teas like Earl grey black tea and other flavors.

The host should also make sure that there are milk and lemon slices on the table so that everyone can enjoy their cup of tea as they would like.

I personally do not like it when hosts serve tea in tea bags. I think it looks distasteful, but I know that many hosts and even guests prefer this now. I suppose one advantage of the tea bag is that the guests can make the tea as strong or as weak as they would like.

Post 1

Can a variety of teas be served at high tea or must it be black tea?

And how did the high tea tradition get started, does anyone know?

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