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January is National Hot Tea Month

I can’t let the month end without acknowledging that January is National Hot Tea Month. Of course, those of you who love tea as much as I do drink it year round not just in January.

The Art of Living Beautifully ( has chosen tea as the theme for their upcoming March magazine. Subscribe to read some interesting and fun articles and recipes from the contributors.

Perhaps no tea celebration is better known than afternoon tea.

The ritual of taking afternoon tea with small sandwiches and sweets is usually attributed to Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, who felt a “sinking feeling” one afternoon after a long day of managing the household and knowing that supper would be late. Her quick-thinking lady-in-waiting fetched a cup of tea and some toast for her mistress and she was refreshed.

Anna liked the idea of stopping for tea in the afternoon so much that she invited some friends over to gossip and sip a cup or two the following afternoon. But she thought her guests were entitled to something a little more special than toast, so she added a cake and some little sweets.

I love this story, but sadly it’s not true. It has been proven that tea, served at 4:00 or 5:00, was the main meal of the day for the working classes for years before Anna Russell became a Duchess.

In my research I discovered something I found interesting: there is a difference between afternoon tea and high tea.

Afternoon tea is sometimes referred to as low tea because it is served in a parlor or living room at a low table. A pot of tea is served with milk, along with scones or crumpets, finger sized sandwiches and bite sized desserts. It is served between lunch and supper.

High tea is served at a high table and is usually served at 6:00 as the main meal of the day, or supper. Tea is accompanied by leftover meats, pasties or shepherd pie. The word “high” may or may not have come from the high backed Windsor chairs that surrounded most tables during this time period, but the most probable source is that high tea is served at a high table.

I’ll be sharing more information about tea after the magazine publishes. In the meantime, enjoy your tea!

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