Low Tea vs. High Tea

What is the difference between a Low Tea and High Tea?

In this post, we’ll compare these two types of tea menus which have been discussed in my Menu Planning class.

Tea menus are usually offered in high-end hotels, spas and restaurants and can include a variety of hot and cold teas, light sandwiches, fruits, scones, pastries, and sometimes most substantial foods. Popular teas include black teas, jasmine greens, oolong teas and an assortment of tisanes (herbal  “teas”).

Low Tea
Also known as Afternoon Tea, it is usually served in the early afternoon, in a sitting room where low tables are placed near sofas or chairs. This occasion is meant to foster friendship and is an elegant social affair for the ladies, involving manners, lace and dainty foods.

The menu for a Low Tea includes small, savory appetizers (crustless sandwiches made with cucumbers, watercress or ham and cheese), sweets (confections, warm scones, and petit fours), fruits and sliced cheeses. Clotted cream and lemon curd usually round out a low tea menu. The tea is heated, brewed and decanted, with the first cup poured by a wait staff to insure that there are no spills.

Types of Low Tea :

  • Cream Tea – includes tea, scones, jam and cream
  • Light Tea – includes tea, scones and sweets
  • Full Tea – includes tea, scones, sweets, and savory finger sandwiches
  • Champagne Tea – served with a glass of champagne
  • Teddy Bear Tea – a children’s afternoon tea party featuring teddy bears

High Tea
Sometimes called a Meat Tea, it is usually served in the early evening, taking the place of dinner. The High Tea is an informal gathering, served at a high table with place settings. It is much more of a daily family meal for working class laborers, rather than an elite social event.

The High Tea menu is much heartier than that of the Low Tea. It consists of salads, savory hot dishes (stews, fish, sausages and pot pies), vegetables (potatoes, corn and green beans), sliced cold meats, fresh fruits, and sweets (chocolate cakes, fruit tarts, custards, and pastries). The tea may be served hot or iced.

So, there you have it – some of the differences between Low Tea and High Tea. Whether you prefer one over the other, I encourage you to experiment with different types and flavors of tea to discover what most pleases your own palate!

“Fundamentals of Menu Planning, Third Edition,” published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.





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