Afternoon Tea vs High Tea

Did you know that afternoon tea and high tea are not the same thing?

Often used interchangeably today, the terms describe different meals. The one that is most often used for tea parties, baby & bridal showers, and hosted with all the fun cakes is afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea is a lighter meal, often served to the upper class and was at one point referred to as ‘low tea’ because of the lower table (think coffee table height). This meal consists of tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and sweets. Afternoon tea is, of course, served in the afternoon (approximately 3:30-5pm) as a way to tide you over between lunch and dinner.

Popularized by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford in the 1840s, she wanted the tea and cakes to fill her up until the very late supper time that was usually 7-8pm in the evening. Afternoon tea was also used as a social gathering, as it is today as well with the showers and parties. This is the one to dress up for with your dresses and fancy hats.

High tea is, you guessed it, served on a higher table and often a post-work meal for the working class. Because it’s a meal for people who often laboured away at work, the food served at high tea is often a lot heartier and heavier to provide the sustenance for those who’ve worked long hours  – think meat and potatoes. While still deliciously savoury, a high tea meal is not for those who are just looking to keep those hunger pains away until dinner.

Regardless of what you call it, the fancy tea parties in the afternoon are still a lot of fun! And as a lot of us are spending more time at home these days, it’s a fun away to bring your family together for a nice little sit-down meal and enjoy each others company.

There are a lot of recipes out there that could easily fill up your tiered cake stand and your delicate tea cups. Some fun recipes to round out your menu could include some Lemon & Cranberry Scones topped with Easy Chia Seed Jam, to be served next to your London Fog with Lavender Simple Syrup, of course.

Recipe: Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

If you’ve been a One More Steep reader for a while, you’ll know that I tend to share a new cookie recipe every December. I work in acute medicine with a fantastic group of nurses and other healthcare professionals. One of our annual holiday activities includes a cookie exchange among staff and ever since I started working there, I’ve brought in a tea related cookie. This holiday season is my last with this amazing group of individuals, so I’ve pulled out all the stops with my contribution to this year’s cookie exchange: Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies.

My previous cookie recipes included: Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies, Matcha Sugar Cookies, and Matcha White Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies
Yields: 4 dozen.
Baking Time: 8 minutes.

Chai Spice Mix
2 tbs ground cardamom
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs ground nutmeg
1 tbs ground ginger
½ tbs ground black pepper

Cookie Dough
1½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs Chai Spice Mix¹

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp water

¹ This is a great spice blend if you want to create some chai latte magic at home! You’ll get bonus points if you make a chai spice blend from scratch with whole or freshly ground spices. If you buy ground spices, make sure they’re in a dry, air-tight container so they can keep longer!

My Chai Spice Mix is a very similar blend to the Pumpkin Spice Mix that I shared earlier this year in my Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte recipe, but the ratios are a bit different as it’s more cardamom heavy and it includes black pepper (which I do freshly grind because I’ve got a pepper grinder in my kitchen).

Prepare Chai Spice Mix
Mix all ingredients together.
Store in air-tight glass container.

Make Those Cookies
Beat powdered sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and eggs together until well blended.
Mix in flour, baking soda, and Chai Spice Mix.
Cover and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll out dough to approximately ¼” thick, cut into shapes with cookie cutters.
On cookie sheets, lay out cookies at least 1″ apart.
Bake 8 minutes or until edges are light brown.
Remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks after 2-3 minutes out of the oven.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker The Big Book of Cookies, “Sugar Cookies”.

Vanilla Glaze / Decorate!
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and water together.
Add water slowly as you mix. You want it to be thin enough to drizzle, but not so thin that it’ll just run off. (I’m so technical, I know.)
Drizzle icing on the cookies – you can use a fork or toothpick (or scoop the glaze into a zip-top bag and snip the corner and get really fancy).
Allow glaze to dry and set before you stack or package the cookies.

If you make these delicious Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies, I’d love to see your photos! Be sure to tag me on Instagram (@onemoresteep #onemoresteep) or comment below with a link to the photo!

Tea Experience: Cakes n Sweets Bakery

Cakes n Sweets Bakery
Coquitlam, BC
High Tea – $24.95 each

I went to Cakes n Sweets Bakery last month as part of my birthday celebrations – after all, how else would I celebrate turning yet another year older than with tea? Cake n Sweets Bakery is located in a small strip mall in Coquitlam, BC. Cakes n Sweets Bakery is primarily a bakery, afternoon tea is served almost every day, but reservations are required and they offer a discount if you order an afternoon tea to-go.

Cakes n Sweets offers their regular high tea menu, along with a gluten-free ($28.95 each) and children’s menu ($14.95 each). Due to the nature of their recipes, they’re unable to accomodate dairy-free or vegan options. Just something to consider if you fall into either of those categories!

When you walk into Cakes n Sweets, you’re first greeted by a gorgeous display case with all the desserts you can purchase à la carte (which is really pretty, by the way). We were seated at a cute table that had the menus, teacups and saucer sets, and cutlery.

The tea menu isn’t pages long, but it has a good selection with options from black, green, rooibos, and even a kiddo friendly option called Bubblegum. I opted for my standard Earl Grey with added sugar cubes and cream for extra decadence. The tea itself didn’t overwhelm me, but it did pair really well with the savouries and sweets.

The food arrived on a two-tier cake stand – with the savouries and scones on the bottom with all the sweets on top. The sweets included a macaron each, which we got to pick the flavours.

On the bottom tier, there were buttermilk scones with Devonshire cream & raspberry jam, three cheese quiche, egg salad on croissant, and a cucumber with lemon aioli sandwich. We each got two scones, and then one of each of everything else on the savouries tier. I really enjoyed the buttermilk scone (especially with the Devonshire cream and raspberry preserves!), as well as the quiche as it was served warm, and the cucumber with lemon aioli sandwich.

For the desserts, I picked the cookies and cream macaron. The “assorted delectable desserts” included: apple pie cupcake, chocolate ganache in a chocolate shell, and a raspberry thumbprint cookie. Hands down, my favourite was the apple pie cupcake – so flavourful! And I really enjoyed my macaron flavour selection as well – it had a great cookie cream flavour to it and the bright blue reminded me of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster.

I really enjoyed Cakes n Sweets. I found that the serving staff was attentive, and the tea and food was served at a decent time after placing our orders. I would definitely consider going back with some friends for a casual afternoon tea date – especially if those apple pie cupcakes on are the menu!