Canadians and Americans moving to London should be aware that tea is serious business in England and should not be taken lightly. Visitors are behooved to have a cup of tea and scone before returning to the states. If one is not a tea fan they will be after moving to London! Having a spot of tea is a daily ritual for the majority of Londoners and to truly feel like a Brit those moving to London must partake in this tradition.
Typically, the British begin their day with a cup of tea – not coffee. Throughout the day several tea breaks punctuate one’s daily life. Low tea refers to tea time between two and five in the afternoon and consists of tea and light snacks like small sandwiches, scones or pastries. The tea is traditionally served with milk and sugar at a coffee table of low height, hence the origin of the name Low Tea.
High Tea is traditionally served from five to seven in the evening and is more of a meal than a snack. It is served at a dining table of higher height, thus the origins of the name High Tea. A number of substantial dishes often accompany the tea instead of cakes and biscuits (the English word for cookies) and High Tea can also be referred to as Meat Tea for this reason.
Afternoon tea consumption began in England around 1661 when Catherine of Braganca married King Charles II and brought the tradition over during her relocation to London from Portugal. The English embraced the ritual so much that one would never think it originated somewhere else!
Drinking tea is synonymous with British culture. When hosting an English guest after one’s international relocation make sure to offer them tea instead of coffee. Afternoon tea in the United States is often a formal occasion that occurs in a hotel or restaurant with fancy teacups and a tiered cake stand full of beautiful treats. For Brits, afternoon tea is usually a much more casual affair with a cup or two of tea and some biscuits. Therefore Americans moving to London should not worry so much about presentation when hosting a friend for tea. The most important thing is that there are tea and biscuits available and offered to guest.