Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Low Tea, Cream Tea.......
No wonder the world thinks the English are all fixated with tea when one sees all these options. But, what are they, and why are there so many?
Firstly one should say they are not drinks! All the above are types of meal. Yes, they would typically include a cup of tea, but that is just one part of it. so, let's untangle the nomenclature and put our teas in the right place!
Afternoon tea is traditionally served on a tiered cake stand, and consists of tea sandwiches and savoury treats, fresh warm scones and tea bread, and a selection of pastries and sweet treats.
High Tea and Low Tea originally just describe how afternoon tea would be served, i.e. at the table – High Tea or in easy chairs and a coffee table – Low Tea. that being said, High Tea was originally more of a 'working class' affair, just the name for the meal at the end of the working day, eaten much earlier than the middle and upper classes would have eaten their dinner. Nowadays, if someone talks about 'having their tea', this is the meal they are referring to ... beans on toast or some other filling but not 'dinner-worthy' end-of-the-day meal. Low Tea is the more usually understood Afternoon Tea meal, started by the Duchess of Bedfordshire as an antidote to the hunger pangs she felt between breakfast and supper/dinner.
Cream Tea on the other hand is a smaller meal or afternoon snack of scones, jam and clotted cream (and, of course, a pot of tea), traditional in the southern English counties of Devon and Cornwall but enjoyed nationwide. There is a hotly contested battle between Cornwall and neighbouring Devon as to whether, after splitting your scone, you put the cream on first followed by the jam as the Devonians (and Birkinshaw’s) say, or is it jam followed by cream as the heretic Cornish say. At Birkinshaw’s, our fresh scones are served warm with pots of jam and our homemade clotted cream, so you can decide for yourself. We promise we won't judge!
A Strawberry Tea is basically a Cream Tea with the addition of fresh strawberries, when they are in season. Taking a Cream Tea or Strawberry Tea outdoors is something of a highlight of the English summer. We do like our little pleasures and 'taking tea', in all its forms, is one of them.
If you fancy trying an English 'tea time' at Birkinshaw's you can have Cream Tea at any time, maybe try our Welsh Rarebit for a taste of typical Low Tea fare, or book ahead and try one of our special Afternoon Teas. And, when local strawberries are at their best we will, of course be offering our own Birkinshaw's Strawberry Teas!