High Tea, Afternoon Tea, and Hilari-tea

The town where I am temporarily residing hosts a high tea once a month, or at least, that’s what they call this particular social occasion.

Like many Americans who have grown up reading English novels, I know what high tea is — a heavy meal served in the early evening, generally around 5:00 pm when the working class returned home from their labors. What I didn’t afternoon teaknow until just now when I did a bit of research is the reason it’s called high tea — because the baked goods and the meat, potato, and vegetable dishes were served from a high table. Seems reasonable enough.

Afternoon tea is served earlier, around 4:00 pm. From all the English books I have read, I’ve gathered that it is a genteel snack of tea and delicate finger foods such as scones and watercress sandwiches with crusts removed. (I’ve never had a watercress sandwich, but so many fictional characters seemed to dote on them, they must be a true delicacy.) Afternoon tea is considered to be a low tea because instead of being served at high tables, it is served at low tables.

I knew what to expect from this local “high tea,” or at least I thought I did. They enticed me with their description, “Want to escape the daily grind and meet new and old friends over a cup of tea? Join us for tea, coffee, and cookies. Get to know new people. Laughter and conversation are guaranteed.” (I wonder if the pun in the first sentence was inadvertent or a sly dig — escaping the daily grind for tea.)

Being in the mood for conversation and laughter, I dressed up (as dressed up as I ever get, which isn’t “dressed up” by anyone’s definition except mine) and moseyed on over to the town hall for this special occasion. The receptionist greeted me with a blank stare when I asked where the tea was being held. Finally, after a long silence, she directed me to a woman from the Parks and Recreation Department who escorted me to the Recreation Center. And there I found . . .

No one. Just a table with a plastic covering, spilled coffee, and a small package of store-bought scones. High tea, indeed.

Still, it was fun. I talked to the woman from the Parks and Recreation Department for a few minutes until she had to return to work, then I called a friend from the Sierra Club and we chatted for a while.

(You can probably guess what we talked about since it’s been my almost constant topic of conversation lately. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Yep, I’m still talking about that, wondering if it’s at all feasible. She says yes.)

The high-tea didn’t really offer much hilarity, but it did amuse me. I might go again sometime, even if it’s just to grab a scone and visit with myself.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

4 Responses to “High Tea, Afternoon Tea, and Hilari-tea”

  1. CICY ROSADO Says:

    Hi if I were to show that movie about dance shold I have High tea or low ? just kidding I probably would serve coffee, tea , light sanwiches & some sweets what do you think?

  2. leesis Says:

    Me I’d go pure English…cucumber sandwiches. Thin slices of white bread, crusts off with slither thin slices of cucumber and tea in a pot with milk (can’t do the upper-class cream in tea) with milk in a lovely jug with sugar cubes with fancy tongs on the side Followed by a tiered tray with many varieties of indulgent cakes. 🙂

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