Afternoon Tea and High Tea are frequently misunderstood and confused with one another. However, besides both being British tea traditions, they are not equal. One is more formal and meant to be a get together over tea and a light snack before dinner. Whereas the other is not at all formal, and meant to be a filling meal after a long, laborious day of work. Read on for more information about the differences between the two types of tea.

Tea Set

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is the kind of service most people envision when they think of “high tea” or a tea party. It can also be referred to as “low tea” because, opposite to High Tea, it is most often served at a low table such as a coffee table.

Afternoon Tea was the service that was actually for the upper class. It began as a social gathering around the 1840s in England. It is believed that the Duchess of Bedford was feeling hungry between a breakfast feast and late dinner so she decided to have some snacks accompanied by tea. She continued this habit and invited guests over to enjoy it as well. Thus, Afternoon Tea was intended to fill that gap between lunch time and dinner time, generally served around 3pm or 4pm. That is why it is a lighter meal with bite-sized food. These consist of a savory course with tea sandwiches (don’t forget to remove the crusts!), a sweet course, and scones with cream and jam.

It’s okay for Afternoon Tea to be served earlier in the afternoon and at normal dining table heights as it typically here in the United States nowadays.


Tea Tier

High Tea

High Tea was given its name because it was traditionally served at higher dinner tables or counter tops, not because it involves the upper or high class. In fact, High Tea was actually for the  class whose jobs often involved labor intensive work like in mines or fields. The workers would come home after a long day and be quite hungry so a filling meal was prepared and tea was a part of it.

High Tea is more of a substantial meal served at the end of the work day which is usually between 6pm-7pm. Dishes like meat and fish, along with bread are usually included. Notably, scones are not a part of High Tea. This term is often misused because some assume “high” automatically means fancy. Also, people seemed to be more familiar with the term “high tea” than “afternoon tea”.


Types of Tea to Servc

Favorite teas for afternoon and high tea include the following:

Black Teas

Earl Grey

Herbal Teas


Tea Cups