The question about what we call our daily meals, and what it says about our roots, has sparked a lively conversation. If you recall, I wrote about the difference between "afternoon tea" and "high tea", and the confusion between the two.

Reader Judith Barber remembers having high tea when she was a child in the 1950s. She writes: “‘High tea’ is a Scottish thing. I was born in England of Scottish parents. I remember it from our annual summer holidays visiting relatives. There was definitely something cooked, followed by cake or bread and jam. At home, our main meal, dinner, was always in the middle of the day. I would still rather have high tea than eating a big, cooked meal later in the evening. Whether Papa, my grandfather, needed something more after his day’s work as a gamekeeper, I can’t remember.”

Katie Westmorland is of Scottish descent too and says: “Growing up we used to go out for high tea. Like you said, it was a hot meal, a cup of tea and followed by a selection of cakes! I loved it!”

Lynn Catena is British-born but now lives in Canada, and understands why people get confused. “I think the connotation of the word ‘high’ makes people believe that it’s the ‘posher’ of the two.” She adds: “I have happy memories of going to Betty’s Cafe for afternoon tea. Last time I was at the Betty’s in Harrogate was with my sister and mum, just before mum died.”

Lucien Smith (who I’m sure won’t mind me saying is a rather "posh" friend of mine) associates "high tea" with his boarding school days. When his parents came to visit, they would often eat out in nearby Helmsley.

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“‘High tea’ was at the Black Swan in Helmsley, something cooked circa 5pm, rather than ‘supper’ in school itself. We were definitely ‘lunch’, ‘tea’ (afternoon) and ‘supper’ at home, whereas we went out to ‘dinner’.”

However, his elder brother Quentin describes his evening meal as "tea", and Lucien has chastised him about it, reasoning that they never used that word at home. Quentin just happened to be good friends with my brother, and in our less-than-posh house the evening meal was always called "tea", so perhaps we are to blame? As Lucien points out, a couple of words can tell you so much!

Staying with Helmsley, Anna Lupton remembers: “In the 1970s The Crown in Helmsley served high teas which were gammon and eggs. Next door at the (posher) Black Swan it was afternoon tea as we know it today. They bought all the cakes, buns and tarts from Sanders cafe/bakery where I used to work in the school holidays. The buns were butterfly buns, chocolate or plain, or with icing and a cherry on top.”

Like many, Michel Laning seems to have confused the two types of teas, but I think we can forgive him, seeing as he’s from the Netherlands. Our strange ways and bizarre language must be rather baffling for foreign visitors. He says: “I did a ‘high tea’ with a friend of mine last year. I was the only man in a group of her invited female colleagues. I tried several blends of tea, but I preferred the scones and sandwiches. It was quite an interesting experience, but ‘high tea’ is not exactly my ‘cup of tea’. Next stop will be ‘high beer!’."

It sounds like Michel actually had "afternoon tea" rather than a traditional "high tea". Nevertheless, whatever traditional English tea he sampled, he doesn’t sound very impressed!

Monica Gantz got in touch all the way from Chicago saying: “I grew up in America with an Italian mother, so no high tea for us. Of course, we like the ritual of it. We all want something late afternoon. For the Italians it would be an espresso with a slice of cake or two cookies, then after 7pm a small dinner.”

I was also contacted by my former journalism colleague Jane Ridley, who now works for the New York Post. She was straight to the point, and said simply: “This has always perplexed me.”

Well, Jane, me too, because at at my mum’s tonight, my sister cooked tea, I ate dinner, and my mum had supper. But we all ate the same thing at the same time at the same table! No wonder we are all a bit confused!

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