It is not really clear when everything started, but we know that Infanta Catharine of Braganza introduced the habit to drink tea in England when she became Queen and wife of Charles II, in 1662.
But only around 1830’s, thanks to Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, afternoon tea started to be considered as part of everyday life of upper-class people.
Documents testify that the habit of a light meal with tea was customed years before, in France and Netherlands, but certainly, the Duchess helped this fashion to become a new social event in England.
Slowly, it spread all over the Commonwealth during the 19th century.
High, cream and low tea: what’s the difference?
Afternoon tea, or low tea, is traditionally served around 4 and 5 o’clock and eaten at a low table, that’s why it’s also called low tea. It consists of finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries.
High tea or meat tea is an early dinner, popular among factory workers, who couldn’t consume a meal in the afternoon and had to wait after work. It’s less formal and more consistent of the afternoon one, with cold meat, fish, sandwiches but also desserts and fruit, served on a “high” table.
Cream tea is a lighter version of afternoon tea, with scones, jam, and delicious clotted cream originally from Cornwall and Devon.
Nowadays, afternoon tea is consumed on special occasions and high tea has been postponed in the day and substituted by a more consistent dinner.
If afternoon tea is too much for you, cream tea is a great alternative!
Read more here about afternoon tea and its origin.