Everything you Need to Know About High & Afternoon Tea

Words: Emma Nkunzana

At Crush, we have a bit of an obsession with the ritual of afternoon tea. Maybe we’ve watched one too many episodes of Downton Abbey, but really what’s not to love? Sipping from delicate china with your pinky in the air, nibbling on indulgent treats, all the while gossiping with your bestie. It’s bliss.

It’s a common mistake to confuse high tea with afternoon tea though, as over time the lines have been somewhat blurred. Historically, high tea was a more substantial evening meal of a savoury dish or two, consumed by the working classes after a long day at work. The concept of afternoon tea was first introduced by the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell. She found herself rather peckish during the time between lunch and dinner and found that a spot of tea, a bite of a light sandwich and a nibble of cake would tide her over until dinner. Naturally, being a part of the upper echelons of society meant that the affair evolved into a regular social event and the tradition of afternoon tea was born. Thanks Anna, we’re forever indebted!

Afternoon tea service is a great British tradition that has certain best practice rules. For those of us who didn’t grow up in a castle or manor with tea as part of a regular schedule, it can certainly get confusing, so here are some easy tips to make your tea drinking in line with the way it should be…

High & Afternoon Tea
High & Afternoon Tea

What not to do…

Don’t add the milk first. Milk should be added after the tea so you can properly gauge how much you need to balance the strength of the brew. Traditionally, tea was added first when soft paste porcelain cups were used – it was necessary to add milk first to temper the heat preventing the cup from cracking.
Don’t pronounce the long “o” in “scone.” It is properly pronounced “scon.”
Don’t dunk your biscuits, unless you’re on the comfort of your own couch!

What you definitely should do…

Do feel free to request different milk – full fat, soy, skim should all be available.
Do stir the tea delicately, you are not a witch operating a cauldron!
Do eat finger sandwiches with your hands – they’re designed for and named after their purpose. Cakes tend to be more delicate and require at least a fork. A scone with cream and jam needs a guiding hand.

Now that you know the proper etiquette of tea, why not visit one of these spots to enjoy an afternoon and high tea in Cape Town. If you’re in Durbs, get to the Beverly Hills Hotel for their tea offering. If you’re feeling creative, try your hand at hosting your very own afternoon tea with one of these recipes.

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