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Afternoon tea: Trending in America

Hosting an afternoon low tea may be easier than you think.
Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Afternoon tea became an important part of British cuisine in the late 1800s after interior lighting made it possible for the upper classes to eat their evening meal much later in the day. As a result they needed something in between their lunch and dinner to tide them over until the late hour of 9:00 p.m. when that last meal was typically taken. The result was afternoon tea.

There are actually two types of afternoon tea which are often confused in America. High tea (also called “meat tea”) is generally taken by the working classes between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. It is their evening meal. Low tea is the one most Americans think of when they think of afternoon tea. It is more elegant and is enjoyed between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.

Low tea has become somewhat of a trend in the U.S., often used to celebrate wedding showers, birthdays, retirements and just about any occasion that lends itself to delicate food and quiet conversation.

If you’ve been thinking about hosting a low tea for some special occasion, it may not be as difficult as you think. In fact, it can be one of the simplest ways to entertain. Here’s what you’ll need:

Low Tea Serving Supplies

* Fancy cups and saucers (These can often be purchased at a thrift store for as little as $1 per set.)

* Table cloth and cloth napkins

* Serving dishes (The three-tiered server is traditional, but not necessary.)

Classic Low Tea Menu

Earl Grey tea

Mini-scones with Devonshire cream

Mini-quiches (These can be purchased premade in the frozen food section of the grocery store.)

Cucumber and mint finger sandwiches with curry mayonnaise

The basic concept of low tea is for all the food served to be bite-sized. This allows guests to eat while still being able to enjoy conversation.

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