To most tea lovers, any time is tea time, but in many countries the term “tea time” has come to mean a particular time of day when work stops for a leisurely cup of tea.

For the privileged class, tea time is around 4:00 in the afternoon. Afternoon tea is a formal tea party where tea, along with delicate sandwiches and cakes are served. For the less-privileged, tea time may be a 10 minute break in the afternoon – a short respite in a busy work day.

In England and Ireland, tea time is time for a light evening meal of cold meat, cakes, and sandwiches. It is usually served around 5 pm or 6 pm and is also known as “high tea” because it is served on the high table (the dining table) as opposed to the low table (the tea table).

In the English countryside, tea time is the time for a substantial meal which usually combines an afternoon snack with the main evening meal. It is served around nightfall and is the biggest meal of the day.

In parts of the world “tea” is also a meal as well as a beverage. In New Zealand and Australia, for example, tea time is when the evening meal is served. The three meals of the day are commonly called breakfast, lunch, and tea.

Low Tea

Formal afternoon tea is a custom in many countries of the former British Empire. Although afternoon tea is not common in the modern world, it still has its place for special occasions.

This tradition started back in 1840 when the Duchess of Bedford began having afternoon tea parties. It became a symbol of high society and remains a high-class affair. The term “tea time” has become associated with afternoon tea, so most people assume that tea time is around 4:00 in the afternoon.

Afternoon tea is called low tea in England because it is served on low tables. Some Americans confused the terms and began calling afternoon tea high tea – presumably because of its associations with “high society.”

Anytime is Tea Time

Anyone who is passionate about tea is unlikely to care when “tea time” is. Tea is a refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed anytime of the day or night. A nice cup of tea offers a stimulating pick-me-up at any hour, and tea lovers can relax with their favorite beverage secure in the knowledge that their cherished drink is good for both the body and the soul.