With the coronation of King Charles III today and Mothers’ Day right around the corner, it’s high time to talk about high tea and afternoon tea.
While there may be differing levels of engagement when it comes to afternoon tea and the new King, it’s a certainty that tea rooms and tea houses are gearing up for what will be their busiest day of the year: Mothers’ Day.
I was surprised to learn of the number of tea houses in the province. According to her research, Alyshia Bestard says there are over 40 tea houses in Ontario serving the traditional tea service with scones, clotted cream and classic savouries like cucumber and cheese sandwiches. That number doesn’t include restaurants that may serve an occasional afternoon tea.
Bestard, owner of Queen of Hearts Tea House and Gift Shop in Kitchener, points out that there is some confusion about the Victorian terms “high tea” and “afternoon tea,” which are often (and historically incorrectly) used interchangeably. Some venues may refer to their afternoon tea as high tea, she says.
“High tea was served later in the day, and it was more of a working-class meal. Workers came in from the fields, and they wanted to eat. They’d have a robust meal that might include a meat pie, scones and sweets. It was what we would consider supper and was served at high tables like in a dining room which is where it got its name,” Bestard says.