Although the name "High Tea" sounds lofty, actually originated with the working classes in England. Dinner, as it was called, was served midday in the 19th Century, and working blokes in those times were not afforded the luxury of an afternoon lunch break. So their tea would have to wait until the end of the
In place of tea cakes and crumpets, tea was served up with more stick to the ribs fare like pies, meats, and cheeses.
The name "high tea" probably evolved from the logical practice of serving it at proper dinner tables to accommodate the hearty meal that accompanied it, rather than posing elegantly on couches or settees. Using the term "high tea" when you really mean "afternoon tea" is a dead giveaway you're American.
"The Ritz-Carlton staff in London always can tell it's an American when they call for high tea at 2 in the afternoon,", according to one of the managers there.
But no matter where your tea time takes you, whatever you do, keep those pinkies down. "Americans in the Ritz's tea room stand out because they work so hard to keep their pinkies extended while holding their teacup," he says while laughing. "It's hilariously pretentious."
Despite all the legendary rules, don't get too hung up on proper behavior and not making a fool of yourself. British tea time is meant to be relaxing.
If you pay attention to your manners, put the napkin in your lap and keep your feet off the table, you'll get through it unscathed, and most likely have a delightfully good time.