High Tea vs. Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea
A beautifully set table and scones, tea sandwiches, and sweets presented on a three-tiered tray are two of the hallmarks of an afternoon tea.

Text by Angie Brown

Know which type of tea you are hosting.

Laughter and conversation flow easily around the table when people are enjoying a well-planned tea party. If you are thinking of hosting such a gathering, be sure to know which type of tea party you plan to host, be it an afternoon tea or a high tea. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually distinctly different.

High tea is not a fancy tea, as many people assume. Delectable scones, tea sandwiches, and cakes are the hallmark of an afternoon tea, which is served in midafternoon. A high tea, however, includes much more substantive fare, such as meat, fish, and egg dishes, as well as breads and desserts, and is offered in the early evening. Think of it as a light supper served with tea.

Afternoon tea, also known as “low tea,” is most often taken at a low table, like a coffee table in the sitting room before a warm fire. (Of course, it can also be served at a dining table.) High tea gets its name from its tendency to be served at a high table, like a dining table or high counter, at the end of the workday. Whether you choose to serve a more luxurious tea or plan a heartier meal, both are lovely ways to savor teatime and to entertain your guests.

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  1. Hello, I live in Australia and would like to subscribe to your magazine. Could you advise how I can do this please. I love your articles that are filled with charm, grace and beautiful photos
    Penny whife

  2. Thank you for the wonderful clarification of high tea and afternoon tea. I have seen both misused and have educated many on the difference. I once, too, did not know the difference.

  3. Thanks again for this bit of information. Hopefully word will get out and the lovely afternoon tea will go back to being referred to as low tea. I did a great high tea dinner for my husband’s 50th dinner. US Southern style as his family is from N.C. Complete with a baked ham and lots of dessert choices.

  4. I had heard High Tea described as a working class meal served at the dining table when everybody gets home from work. a hot main dish is involved, and you need silverware. Afternoon tea is earlier, involves fancy finger food, and the only silverware needed is a spoon to stir your tea. Well, maybe a fork, if there’s a big cake instead of cupcakes

  5. So many people and tea houses use the term high tea, this description may be needed in every issue to educate the public. Thank you So Much

  6. I have frequently looked for High Tea information because I am keto and love tea. So having meat, fish or eggs with my tea in the evening sounds perfect. But a lot of people attempt to correct me and tell me it’s afternoon or low tea. It really isn’t. I really do want the more casual, dinner tea and have difficulty finding more info on how to host or attend one.

  7. I learned this information a very long time ago when visiting the UK. From 1976 until 1999 we visited every two to three years.

    On our trips hubby and I always spent a week in London and then spent 2-3 weeks exploring the countryside either in England, Ireland or Scotland. The breakfasts served in the hotels and B&Bs were usually very hearty so we often skipped lunch and instead stopped mid-afternoon for high tea.

    I always thought it strange so many tea rooms in the US haven’t done their research to ascertain the difference.

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