Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea

Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea

What is the difference between afternoon tea and high tea? Afternoon tea is served between 2pm and 5pm and typically consists of three courses, including scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches and cakes.

Afternoon tea savories at the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh

Over the years afternoon tea has grown to include other savory treats, such as miniature quiches and Scotch eggs. One of the most popular cakes served with afternoon tea is the Victoria Sandwich cake, named after Queen Victoria, made up of two layers of vanilla sponge cake sandwiched together with buttercream and jam.

Victoria Sandwich Cake at Brown’s Hotel
Victoria Sandwich Cakes filled with cream and jam at Brown’s Hotel, London

High tea refers to a more substantial meal typically served later in the evening between 5pm and 7pm, accompanied by a main dish, popular with working class people after work. High tea got its name from the height of the table it was served on, specifically on ordinary dining room tables in the homes of the working class, whereas afternoon tea was served on low tables, the height of a modern day coffee table in the drawing rooms of the upper class. Consequently, afternoon tea also became known as “low tea.”

Afternoon tea desserts and scones with clotted cream and lemon curd at Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, London
Halibut with Jerusalem artichoke puree, samphires and nasturtium infused oil, the main dish served with Fortnum & Mason’s High Tea at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, London