Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tea for two

As an English person living in Australia, I sometimes come across terms which have different meanings here compared to the UK. One such example is ‘high tea’. To me, with my English background, high tea is a fairly substantial meal served at about 5 or 6pm. It might include hefty slices of bread and butter, ham, salad, scones and fruit cake, probably served with mugs of tea from a big, solid tea pot. This fits the definition given by the Macquarie dictionary of ‘a meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening, typically with a cooked dish, bread and butter, and tea to drink (usually taking the place of dinner).’ There is nothing delicate, to me, about high tea.

Afternoon tea in the UK is a much more refined affair, with cucumber sandwiches, small cakes arranged daintily on a tiered cake stand, scones with jam, and specialised blends of tea served in pretty porcelain cups (with saucers, of course!). It is usually taken at about 3pm.

In Australia, however, I have found the term ‘high tea’ used to describe what I would refer to as ‘afternoon tea’. Thus an Australian high tea is served mid-afternoon, and is an elegant repast of scones, small sandwiches, little cakes and tea.

This has prompted me to do a bit of research on how other countries view high tea. As far as I can see, high tea in Australia, Jamaica, South Africa and the United States is what I would call ‘afternoon tea’ in the UK. I may be wrong about this, though, and would love to see your comments on how this term is used in your country. You can contribute by voting in the poll, and by leaving a comment below. Our bloggers in India and China may have lots to say on this subject!