This morning, as I write, it is starting to snow lightly. I am writing this and sipping tea from a Royal Albert tea cup. Meanwhile, a chainsaw whines down the street. Life is like that. A mixture of tranquility and activity rolled up together, and it’s important that we find some balance between the two. Time with tea can help.
“Tea time” is a time meant to be savoured. It’s a time to slow down, gather your thoughts, regain your strength. Whether it’s a visit with a friend, an escape into a good book, or simply time to sit down and draw up your to-do list, we ought to leave it with a renewed sense of peace.
Our “tea time” may not always be formal. Let’s face it – long gone are the days when proper ladies deferred most of the household and childcare duties to their staff, and so engaged in more formal tea times. These days I’m swilling tea “on the go”, leaving a trail of tea rings and empty china mugs all around the house.
There are different types of “tea time”. Let’s begin with the 2 most familiar : High and Low Tea.
High Tea, or Meat Tea, is a meal served when the family is home from their daily activities. It is, in fact, more like a light supper and may include meat dishes and sweets, along with tea. Its name originated from the height of the table, that is to say it was served at a table. In the lower classes, high tea and the evening meal were essentially the same thing because the main meal would be eaten mid-day in order to sustain them during the long working hours.
High Tea and Low Tea are often confused. When we delight in finger sandwiches, dainty biscuits, and buttery scones, we are, in fact, partaking of Low Tea or Afternoon Tea. Yes, we are ordinarily seated at a table. Originally, low tea would be served on low tables beside comfortable arm chairs, and tea cups held in the hand. Again, the height of the table determines the name. Loose leaf tea and delicacies would be served from a cart or a tray, rather than on a table, and Tea would be taken in a reputable hotel, or in the garden or formal parlour of a lady.
Tea might also be determined by the terms “Light” and “Full”. Light tea is a lighter version of Low Tea served with only scones or a few sweets. Full Tea, however, includes a 4-course menu of finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, and a rich dessert. The finger sandwiches are really what separate these two.
Cream Teas are similar to Low Tea in the fare that is served, with the prominant addition of devonshire or clotted cream. Fresh cream, which is denser and creamier than whipped cream, is spread on scones, often accompanied by fresh berries or preserves. Clotted cream is non-pasteurized milk that is heated to form creamy clots on the top, which are spooned off once the cream cools.
Nursery Tea is pretty obvious! It’s a late afternoon meal for the children and caregivers that included bread or toast, honey and jam, and scones. Milk or apple cider may be served, rather than tea.
Ham Teas are small meals consisting of tea and hearty sandwiches. This would be my husband’s first choice, the sandwiches, not so much the tea! 🙂
Royal Tea is a full tea time that includes champagne or sherry at the end. (Sweets and champagne – yes please!)
And finally, one of my favourites: Elevenses! I first heard the term when reading Lord of the Rings. Having just left the Shire, connected with Aragorn, and began a rather long journey into the wild, the Hobbit, Pippin first whines, then laments all the meals he’s going to miss. Including Second Breakfast or Elevenses, which is a late morning snack of tea and pastry, similar to a coffee break.
I think I enjoy elevenses at more than just 11:00 o’clock. I hear the kettle calling!
There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.