NORWICH | AYLSHAM
a typical low tea
Afternoon Tea is a light meal, typically eaten between 3pm and 5pm.
The custom of drinking tea in England originated when Catherine of Braganca married Charles II in 1661 and brought the practice of drinking tea in the afternoon with her from Portugal.
Various places in the British Empire have
such a meal.
Isabella Beeton describes afternoon teas of various kinds... the old-fashioned tea, the at-home tea, the family-tea, and the high-tea and it probably comes as no suprise that she provides detailed menues for her housewife readers!
Traditionally loose tea is brewed in a teapot and served in teacups with milk and sugar, depending on the tea. This is accompanied by sandwiches, scones (with clotted cream) and usually cakes or pastries. The food is often served on a tiered stand.
However our ultimate tea hero has to be Mr. Twining, who badgered the government in 1785 to change the taxation of tea from 80% to 12%. This changed how people enjoyed their tea and it was no longer reserved for the super wealthy. Much later in history tea bags came into circulation, finally meaning tea for all.
Without him we might never have adopted tea as our
national beverage and Biddy's might not
exist at all!
High tea (also known as meat tea) is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm onwards. it usually consisits of cold meats, eggs or fish, cakes and sandwiches. On farms and other working class environments high tea would be the substancial meal eaten by workers immediately after nightfall. It would combine the afternoon tea with the evening meal.
There are many places where you see high tea as the posher of the options given as we now assosiate it with the higher classes when infact its the total opposite and should be called low tea.
While living in Woburn Abbey, Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, is credited as the fisrt person to have transformed afternoon tea in England into a late-afernoon meal rather than a simple refreshment.
Many people confuse 'high tea' with afternoon tea, which is actually called 'low tea' the names merely suggest where you will be when you eat it. Those who didnt work for a living ate it sitting down and it was served to them (hence the low) and those who did had to work for a living ate standing up as they were often too dirty to be allowed to eat their supper on their wifes nice chair - instead were relegated to the fire place to eat as they dried