Tea Termonology 101

It generally takes about a year after purchasing an inn to find your own management style and to feel comfortable with day to day operations. I remember for the first few months after buying the Captains House, wondering if I would ever feel in charge of the day – would I ever be proactive instead of reactive? Eventually, though, we fell into a groove, but it took a lot of effort. While we had owned an inn before, and were familiar with selling rooms, serving breakfast and chatting with guests, one tradition we inherited with which we were not familiar was the daily spread of English tea for which the inn was renowned. Locals and visitors alike would book advance reservations and eagerly await the tiers of authentic homemade tea delicacies our chef, Kevin, prepared.

Aside from the fact that my dad hails from England, we knew little about English tea and wondered if we could successfully continue the service without allowing our inexperience to reflect in the quality. Ultimately, we decided to learn as much as possible and continue the Captains House Inn’s celebrated tea tradition. Over time, we discovered that there are endless details to ascertain when it comes to properly offering tea service. We learned the correct placement of cutlery, how to make mouth watering scones, recipes for countless dainty tea cookies and sandwiches, and most interesting of all – the difference between cream tea, afternoon tea, and high tea.

Turns out, Americans typically throw around the term “high tea” erroneously. What we often refer to as “high tea” is actually more like dinner to the English and consists of heavier, meatier fare as opposed to dainty pastries and sandwiches. When we think of tiers of elegant, almost regal cuisine including selections like cucumber sandwiches, scones, and mushroom pasties, we should really be describing this as “afternoon tea.” Sometimes, “afternoon tea” is also referred to as “low tea” because folks would enjoy their meal seated on comfortable couches with their food and tea on low coffee tables. Finally, the term “cream tea” consists mostly of tea cookies and cakes and scones with jam and cream.

While we still inaccurately label our tea “high tea,” we do so only because this term is so common and seems to be the clearest way to paint a picture in guest’s minds of our tea presentation. To clarify our offerings, cream tea is served daily to in-house guests between 3:00 and 5:00 and is included in our room rate. High tea (or afternoon tea if you prefer to use the correct terminology) is open to both in-house and outside guests and is also served daily from 3:00 to 5:00. For in-house guests, the price/person is $7.50 and for outside guests, it is $18.00/person. We do require reservations and if you choose to indulge, you will understand why – the time and artistry that goes into preparing all those miniature delicacies entails a lot of care and planning. We hope you will join us and share what we have not only learned a lot about, but what we now consider a pastime close to our hearts.

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