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Afternoon tea at Claridge's, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR, England, U.K. Price: £63 per person including a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne.

Top 50 High-End Afternoon Tea and High Tea Rooms

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea." - Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady.

"I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground.

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." - C. S. Lewis.

AFTERNOON TEA is a light meal typically eaten between 4 pm and 6 pm. Observance of the custom originated amongst the wealthy classes in England in the 1840s. Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, is widely credited as transforming afternoon tea in England into a late-afternoon meal whilst visiting Belvoir Castle, though Charles II of England's wife Catherine of Braganza is often credited with introducing tea to the court upon her arrival in 1662. By the end of the nineteenth century, afternoon tea developed to its current form and was observed by both the upper and middle classes: "the table was laid ... there were the best things with a fat pink rose on the side of each cup; hearts of lettuce, thin bread and butter, and the crisp little cakes that had been baked in readiness that morning."

Traditionally, loose tea is brewed in a teapot and served with milk and sugar. The sugar and caffeine of the concoction provided fortification against afternoon doldrums for the working poor of 19th and early 20th century England who had a significantly lower calorie count and more physically demanding occupation than most Westerners today. For laborers, the tea was sometimes accompanied by a small sandwich or baked snack (such as scones) that had been packed for them in the morning. For the more privileged, afternoon tea was accompanied by luxury ingredient sandwiches (customarily cucumber, egg and cress, fish paste, ham, and smoked salmon), scones (with clotted cream and jam, see cream tea) and usually cakes and pastries (such as Battenberg cake, fruit cake or Victoria sponge). In hotels and tea shops the food is often served on a tiered stand; there may be no sandwiches, but bread or scones with butter or margarine and optional jam or other spread, or toast, muffins or crumpets.

HIGH TEA (also known as meat tea) is the evening meal or dinner of the working class, typically eaten between 5 pm and 7 pm. High tea typically consists of a hot dish, followed by cakes and bread, butter and jam. Occasionally there would be cold cuts of meat, such as ham salad. Traditionally, high tea was eaten by middle- to upper-class children (whose parents would have a more formal dinner later) or by workers when they came home from work. The term was first used around 1825, and high is used in the sense of well-advanced (like high noon, for example) to signify that it was taken later in the day. The term "high tea" was used as a way to distinguish it from afternoon tea, and was used predominantly by the working class and in certain British dialects of the North of England.

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