I love tea time! It is a wonderful tradition. It represents one of the nicer, more gracious things in life, with its lovely degree of formality and etiquette. People have been drinking tea for centuries, but the tea time we know and love (for those of us who appreciate it), has its roots in the 18th Century. Everyone can have a cup of tea, high-test or herbal, piping hot from a Starbucks paper cup, but nothing takes the place of the "correct" way to prepare, pour, steep and savor your favorite brew, along with delicate sandwiches and tasty finger-sized desserts. The event is not to be hurried, or loud, or boisterous. It demands order and balance and a degree of restraint.
The highest expression of tea time is HIGH TEA, a bit misunderstood by American, as it is really includes a heavier meal. The tea time with the little delicasies is really AFTERNOON or LOW TEA, because it was taken in a sitting room, where low tables were placed near chairs or sofas where attendees could sit and converse. There were three types of offerings: Cream Tea with tea, scones, jam and cream. Or, Light Tea with tea, scones and sweets. Or Full Tea that included savories as well.
In Britian, traditional tea time is four or five o'clock; Americans rather prefer two or three pm. In the early 1700's tea drinking became popular when Queen Anne (1665-1714) began drinking tea rather than ale for her breakfast. Few people drank water, as it was not always clean and dependable. At the beginning of the 18th Century, the English had two main meals, breakfast and dinner. Later on, dinner was shifted from noontime to an evening meal for the upper and middle classes, so a mid-afternoon snack became popular. Tea fit the bill!