Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tea Time Tangents: Is It Just Semantics?


Isn't wikipedia wonderful? For this post, I wanted to write about high tea, which is what my sister and I had the luxury of experiencing during our trip to London ten years ago. At least I mistakenly thought what we were having was high tea. But I was set straight on that commonly misused terminology and learned that what many Americans call "high tea" is in actuality "afternoon tea".

High tea always sounds so much grander, and I suppose that's why I latched on to that label. Considering what you get to eat during what we Americans think of as snack time, English afternoon tea takes the cake! teehee Apparently though, the "afternoon tea" as we know it to be - consisting of [loose tea] tea, scones with my favorite clotted cream, little pastries and cakes, and tea sandwiches like cucumber, egg and fish paste [yum! - and I am serious about this] - is more of a feast that the English, or whoever else wants to take part, indulge in at quality hotels or tea shops. These delights often arrive at the table in a lovely 3-tiered pedestal accompanied by the tea, in a beautiful or charming teapot with a little strainer alongside. This is the service we mistakenly refer to as high tea.

Nowadays, when the English are in their own homes, tea is a simpler and more casual affair where tea is taken with a bit of cake or other nibbly delight. One of the things that I admire most about the English is their seemingly unshakable hold on traditions, tea time being one of them. I suppose it is similar to the Spanish siesta in that both offer daily opportunities to recharge the body and mind by slowing down quite a bit - especially with siestas as they are quite simply... naps. I look at afternoon teas and such as a joyeous and enviable part of the fascinating cultures across the big pond. To be able to enjoy life and celebrate it with relatively small but effective routines that are thoroughly enjoyable, such as taking tea or taking a nap during the afternoon, is pure genius.

There are lots of avenues I want to pursue and tons of information I want to glean with regard to tea time, but there is plenty of time and space on future posts to devote to that. My mind is literally buzzing with half-formed ideas of recipes, china patterns and the history of English tea, etc. etc. One of those ideas for future posts is a further discussion on "low" tea [i.e. afternoon tea] and learning more about high tea - just what is it? I did find out briefly that high tea is more of a meal if you can imagine that, [as if afternoon tea offered mere scraps!] and is referred to as "meat tea". Another future post I'm already looking forward to is one that is all about the tea sandwiches - with the crusts cut off perhaps? Boy am I getting hungry...

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