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High tea / afternoon tea,custom.

Americans in the United Kingdom who have heard of the traditions of high tea and afternoon tea may have thought them one and the same, but the two couldn’t have more divergent roots or ingredients.

Afternoon tea is the one with the aristocratic pedigree, according to Bill Gorman, executive chairman of The Tea Council in London. It stemmed from the practice of a wealthy duchess in the early 1800s, who got hungry before the evening dinner (then served around 8 p.m.) and so began hosting late afternoon snack and gossip sessions featuring scones, pastries and “dainty sandwiches,” he said.

High tea, on the other hand, was the product of the Industrial Revolution, when blue-collar workers would return home around 4 p.m. and have their main meal of the day, usually ham and eggs or beef, cheese or fish, Gorman said.

In modern days, the term “high tea” has all but died out, but posh afternoon tea sessions are currently so trendy they have to be booked weeks in advance at fine hotels, he said.

“Afternoon tea has come back into vogue again,” he said.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: UKnews@mail.estripes.osd.mil


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