High Tea, High Dudgeon
The delicate chink of silver teaspoons against dainty porcelain cups. Aromatic steam rising from the teapot. One lump or two? Cream or lemon? An endless succession of delicacies: Tiny crustless triangular sandwiches of cucumber, smoked salmon, anchovy paste. Exquisite petits fours. Scones, hot from the oven, with clotted cream and homemade preserves.
This is the repast properly called tea, or afternoon tea, or English afternoon tea, or (if it comprises clotted cream or a substitute) cream tea.
It is not called high tea.
Sausages and mash. Baked beans on toast. Egg and chips. Welsh rarebit. Shepherd’s pie. Bubble and squeak.1 Toad in the hole.2 Spotted dick.3
This is the repast that the workingman eats as soon as he gets home from work in the late afternoon.4
It is called high tea.
Tea is drunk, or taken. High tea is eaten. “We’ll be along soon’s yer da’s eaten his tea.”
Tea is drunk at four o’clock. High tea is eaten between five and six.
Tea is a repast enjoyed between luncheon and dinner. High tea is the final meal of the day.
With the exception of the aforementioned scones hot from the oven (or crumpets, or toast), tea consists of cold food. High tea is a hot meal.
Tea consists mainly of finger foods, unless the cake is very sticky. High tea is eaten with knife and fork.
Tea is enjoyed around a tea table in the drawing room, the library, the den, or one’s private sitting room or boudoir, or, weather permitting, outside on the lawn or the veranda. High tea is eaten seated at the dining table (a "high" table, which is why it’s called "high" tea).
The people who have afternoon tea generally do not eat high tea. The people who eat high tea do not have dinner.
Tea can be very elaborate and “fancy.” High tea is generally neither.
Teashops in Britain and in southern European destinations favored by the British tourist often advertise “tea,” “afternoon tea,” or “cream tea.” They do not advertise “high tea.”
At both tea and high tea, the beverage consumed is usually tea.
This is an Indian and British term for a light meal, usually a midday meal.
This word means displeasure, anger, or an indignant humor, generally used preceded by “high.” It describes the way I feel when people use the term “high tea” to mean a small fancy meal eaten before dinner by the English upper classes.
1 Leftover cabbage and potatoes, fried together; so called from either the sound it makes while cooking or the sounds one’s stomach makes after eating it. Like colcannon.
2 Small sausages covered with Yorkshire pudding batter or popover batter and baked.
3 Not an std. And not strictly speaking a dish eaten at high tea, but I couldn’t resist. It’s basically a dessert, a steamed pudding with raisins or currants in it.
4 He then spends the evening at the pub.