Tea, High Tea and Afternoon Tea
陈颖 译  

Tea, High Tea and Afternoon Tea



What are the differences between tea the drink, tea the meal, high tea[1] and afternoon tea


By Marcus Stout


Tea the drink


There are two forms of tea that often cause confusion in the tea world: tea the drink and tea the meal. Tea the drink is made from the Camellia Sinensis plant and from the processing of the plant white, green, oolong, and black teas are produced. The basic teas are also often blended with other plants like vanilla, mint and melon as well as flavors like Oil of Bergamot to make Earl Grey Tea.


The beverage is made by steeping[2] processed leaves, buds, or twigs of the tea bush in hot water  for a few minutes. The processing can include oxidation, heating, drying, and the addition of other herbs, flowers, spices, and fruits.


[1] high tea 高茶,黄昏时吃的正式茶点,与简单的晚餐相似,通常有一道热菜(或三明治)和一壶茶,在英格兰北部和苏格兰尤为流行。


[2] steep 浸泡。

The term “herbal tea” usually refers to infusions[3] of fruit or of herbs (such as rosehip, chamomile, or jiaogulan) that contain no Camellia Sinensis.


[3] infusion 泡制。

Tea the meal


Tea the meal on the other hand involves tea the drink as an important part but really is directed toward social and family gatherings where tea and food are often consumed together.


Generally speaking, the tea meal became most popular and refined in England but spread to English speaking countries or former English colonies as well. Tea meals are also celebrated in other countries in differing forms.


The key distinction between differing tea meals is the time of day, type of food served and the location of serving.



Afternoon tea


Afternoon tea (or Low tea) is a light meal typically eaten at 4:00 pm. It originated in Britain, though various places in the former British Empire also have such a meal. However, most Britons no longer eat such a meal.


Traditionally, loose tea would be served in a teapot with milk and sugar. This would be accompanied by various sandwiches (customarily cucumber, egg and cress[4], tuna, ham, and smoked salmon), scones[5] (with butter, clotted cream[6] and jam) and usually cakes and pastries. Traditionally the tea and food would be served on a lounge[7] (or low) table.


[4] cress 水芥(常放在沙拉和三明治中食用)。


[5] scone 司康饼,也叫英式松饼。


[6] clotted  cream 〈英〉(用文火把牛奶加热而成的)浓缩奶油。产于英国西南部的德文郡(Devonshire)的最好,口感细腻,因而又称“德文郡奶油”。clot(使乳脂)凝结成块。


[7] lounge (私宅中的)起居室。

While afternoon tea used to be an everyday event, nowadays it is more likely to be a treat in a hotel, café, or tea shop, although many Britons still have a cup of tea and slice of cake or chocolate at teatime. Accordingly, many hotels now market and promote afternoon teas.



High tea


To the uninitiated[8] “high tea” may be a confusing term.


[8] uninitiated 无专门知识(或经验)的人。

High tea is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. It would be eaten as a substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal. The term comes from the meal being eaten at the ‘high’ (main) table, instead of the smaller lounge (low) table. It is now largely replaced by the later meal tea.


It would usually consist of cold meats, eggs and/or fish, cakes and sandwiches. In a family, it tended to be less formal and is an informal snack (featuring sandwiches, cookies, pastry, fruit and the like) or else it is the main evening meal.


On farms, in rural areas or other working class environments, high tea would be the traditional, substantial meal eaten by workers immediately after nightfall, and would combine afternoon tea with the main evening meal.


In recent years, “high tea” somehow became a word for exquisite afternoon tea. Such usage is incorrect. High tea is not, in traditional terms, afternoon tea.


Main evening meal


Tea is the main evening meal, even if the diners are not drinking tea. It is traditionally eaten at 5 o’clock in the evening, though often it is later, as late as 9pm.


In many rural parts of the United Kingdom  tea  as a meal is synonymous with dinner in standard English. Under such usage, the midday meal is sometimes termed dinner, rather than lunch.

在英国很多农村地区,tea(茶餐)等同于标准英语中的dinner(晚餐)。依此用法,午时用的饭(midday meal)有时就被称为dinner,而非lunch。

The United States


The term high tea is sometimes used in the United States to refer to afternoon tea or the tea party, a very formal, ritualized gathering in which tea, thin sandwiches and small cakes are served in an exquisite setting. This usage comes from misunderstanding the term high to mean formal. Most tea drinkers understand that such usage is incorrect.


This form of tea is increasingly served in high-end U.S. hotels, often during the winter holidays and other tourist seasons, and many big-city teahouses, where it is usually correctly described as “afternoon tea”.


Social implications


The tea party is still occasionally given in the U.S., usually for a special occasion. This occasion is a formal one, but otherwise afternoon tea is an informal gathering of friends. The tea party often became a place of intimate conversation and social intercourse.


Tea is a very important part of many people’s lives and it is important for those who drink tea or participate in tea meals to understand the correct  terminology[9].


[9] terminology 有特别含义的用语;专门用语。