The History of High Tea
Tea was first brought to Britain in the early 17th century by the East India Company. It was an expensive product and one only for the very rich and royalty; often kept under lock and key. The first tea room for ladies opened in 1717 and slowly tea rooms began to appear throughout England making the drinking of teas available to everyone.
While in Australia we call it High Tea, in England (where the tradition originated), it is known as Afternoon Tea, introduced in the 1840s by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, a Lady-in-Waiting and lifelong friend to Queen Victoria. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon due to the fact the evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock. The Duchess would complain of having "that sinking feeling" and asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
This then became a fashionable social event. During the 1880's upper-class women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o'clock.The afternoon tea tradition was born inside the houses of the rich and fortunate but once summer came around they wanted to take this fabulous time of day outside their rooms and into their beautiful gardens. This then encouraged the lords and men of the house to take part in this delightful activity.
Tea was a fine delicacy at this time, therefore people drinking it wanted the whole world to know they could afford it. Rich families would get their portrait's painted with fine china and exquisite teas so people would know their extreme wealth.