The tradition of taking tea in the afternoon gained popularity amongst the British upper class in the eighteenth century. Back then it was actually called low tea, while high tea was an early evening meal. In the twenty-first century, high tea has become a decadent afternoon spread.
If you are planning on hosting a tea party, these are the essential ingredients.
The tea is the most important aspect of your high tea. Try out different brands and flavours and have some already brewing when your guests arrive.
To brew the perfect pot of tea, always begin with fresh water. While the kettle is boiling, prepare your teapot by adding one tea bag or one teaspoon of leaves per cup. Most tea enthusiasts swear that tea leaves make a better cup, but this is a matter of personal preference.
Pour the water into the tea pot as soon as it has boiled. Turn the teapot three times clockwise and three times anti-clockwise and allow it to infuse for about three minutes before you serve.
If you're not a regular tea drinker, ask tea drinking friends for recommendations. Don't automatically reach for the Bushels – try gourmet varieties like iTea or The Tea Centre.
The traditional afternoon tea typically had three courses; sandwiches followed by scones and then dessert. These were sometimes served together on a tiered platter. You should allow for about five to ten finger food portions per guest.
Cut the crusts from slices of white bread and, using a rolling pin, flatten slightly. Butter and fill with various sandwich toppings like salmon and cream cheese, egg and lettuce, ham and salad, roast beef and mustard and sliced cucumber.
Cut the sandwich vertically so that you end up with three fingers. You should plan to have three to six fingers per guest.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
In a bowl, combine 80 grams of butter and three cups of self raising flour using your fingers. Stop when the mixture resembles rough bread crumbs. Slowly fold in one cup of milk. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead lightly.
Using a scone cutter or a small glass, cut out small circles of dough. Brush with milk and place them together on a greased baking tray so that they are touching each other – this will help them to rise. Cook for about ten minutes.
High tea is not a place for jeans and T-shirts! Ensure your guests dress to the nines in vintage dresses, cocktail gowns, pencil skirts and blouses. Stockings, high heels and white gloves are a must!
Afternoon tea followed a strict set of etiquette guidelines. Some of the rules still apply today, others not so much. Take a look at the etiquette before you host your high tea; whether you enforce 'the rules' is up to you.