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Pinkies Out: Tips For A Successful High Tea

While high tea is common in the UK it has only recently begun to catch on in the US. Often associated with dainty desserts and fine dress, Americans have never quite taken to English tea. However, some of the ideas that people have about high tea are false. With a few tips, Americans may come to embrace the tradition as a midday to afternoon snack.

Afternoon High Tea or Early Evening High Tea?

The tradition of high tea began in England as a way to avoid feeling hungry between the two daily meals of breakfast and a late dinner. For the upper class British, afternoon high tea was held as an afternoon snack around 4:00 PM. For the working class, high tea was more of a meal substitution and generally consisted of heavier foods than desserts and snacks. Whatever time it was served, the name “high tea” referred to whether the tea was served at a “high” dinner table as opposed to a lower less formal setting.

Tips for the American Celebrating High Tea

In the past, high tea was a custom that American tourists experienced only on vacations to the UK. But, Americans have started to embrace the ritual of high tea as an enjoyable and relaxing mini-meal or meal substitution.

While Americans are sure to adapt the tradition to their own needs, for a traditional high tea, there are a few tips to follow for success:

  • When brewing your tea, choose only good quality water. Using water with a strong odor or taste will alter the flavor of the tea itself. Bottled or filtered water is best.
  • Boil the water in a pot, and then add a small amount to your teapot to slightly warm it. Swirl for a few minutes, and then toss that water out. Add remaining water plus one teaspoon of loose tea per cup (plus one more). If using tea bags, use one per cup of tea.
  • The boiling water should be added to the teapot and allowed to sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.
  • “Pinkies out” is not a way of showing class. By holding the pinkie out, slightly bent, it provides extra balance to avoid spilling the hot cup of tea.
  • Teaspoons do not stay in the tea cup after stirring. Place the spoon on the side of the saucer when finished.
  • Teacups are returned to their saucer in between sips. Cups are not held aloft in between sips.
  • When serving tea, use milk rather than cream to weaken the tea. Cream is far too thick and will cover up the rich taste of the tea.
  • Milk and lemon are not a good combination for tea. The citric acid in the lemon will cause milk to curdle, spoiling the tea.

Foods served with early evening high tea tend to be more substantial. When preparing a menu, choose heavier finger sandwich foods such as ham, chicken, egg, and salmon. Combine the sandwiches with heavier cakes and pastries for dessert, like from Clumzy Clover Teas & Treasures.

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