Despite its ancient Asian roots, tea as both a unifying social convention and a light, mid-afternoon meal began in England in the 17th century when the aristocracy adopted the practice. So engrained did it become among the English that the ritual has been maintained by soldiers in fox holes and POWs, while also spreading to much of the world where once flew the Union Jack.
Today, tea – the occasion – remains a ubiquitous part of Anglo Saxon culture, although the demarcations low tea (beverage centered and for the aristocracy) and high tea (mid-afternoon meal featuring the beverage and for the masses) have blurred notably.
Proper teatime calls for proper steeped black tea and accouterment as well as assorted sweets, treats and thin, crust-free sandwiches.
While an appropriate “cuppa” and generally light fare are essentialto a proper tea service, it is enjoyed in the U.S. mostly as a pleasant social occasion rich in tradition and as homage to our forbearers.