The high tea 

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 12 April 2016   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho
Moments at the Motshelo High Tea hosted by WIBA Moments at the Motshelo High Tea hosted by WIBA

The advent of baby showers and bridal showers at the start of the 21st century in Botswana saw many women using these occasions to escape the monotony of their homes. These small parties’ agenda often went beyond partum and wedding issues. Fast forward to 2016, baby showers and bridal showers are still popular. It is almost a taboo for one to become a new mother or bride without her family and friends putting together a colourful party for them.  The two concepts have evolved to a point where now they are held in posh restaurants and hotels, with glamorous settings and exotics meals. Guests too are often required to dress up (at times in a themed colour/style) and have to bring gifts. There is, however, a new edition to local women’s social calendar - the high teas. Albeit coming at a fee, high teas are slowly becoming a frequent event for local women and it would seem they are here to stay.

Individuals and organisations have already held annual high tea events, especially in the capital city and other major towns. With the local arrangement, an individual or a local organisation often organise such occasions and sell the invites at a certain fee. Attendance from women has so far not disappointed. Usually there is a speaker or two who address women issues, ranging from finance, health and beauty or as per the high tea party theme. There maybe several other activities lined up to pamper women during the event. It is also a norm that women who attend these parties come dressed to the nines in bright coloured dresses and designer hats. With a few that have been held in the capital city so far, the venues ranged from the newly re-branded five star Avani Hotel to the serene landscapes of Notwane farms.

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Popular as they are, the arrangement and trend in which local high teas are held in have attracted mixed feelings from observers.  While supporters of this glamorous event feel they shouldn’t be judged but rather be seen as events which give women a platform to discuss issues affecting their everyday lives, the antagonists feel high teas as the name suggest are class orientated events for self -seeking upper class women who in most cases are in it for stature and often shy away from discussing issues detrimental to women welfare. “I wonder why the high tea movement is not engaging government on the rights of abused women. For example ask government to build shelters for abused women. They are silent on this…..” someone posted on Facebook recently.

Many comments which followed the post poured water on the ‘high tea movement’ with some even suggesting that maybe someone has to organise a ‘low tea’ to give the masses a chance to have a similar taste; “kana mme most of the abused women are found at the high tea events and are afraid of coming out under the pretext ''batho ba tla reng,” one post read. Another read “may be the issue should be addressed by Low Tea”. Be that as it may, the ‘high tea movement’ it would seem is growing by the day, and there is no doubt about its popularity among local women.

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History

According to festiviteas.com Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) is credited as the creator of teatime.  It is said that because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from "a sinking feeling" at about four o'clock in the afternoon. At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs. Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centred around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

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Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals, breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread, and beef.  During the middle of the eighteenth century, dinner for the upper and middle classes had shifted from noontime to an evening meal that was served at a fashionable late hour. Dinner was a long, massive meal at the end of the day. During the 1880's, these high society women would wear gowns, gloves and especially hats for afternoon tea. Historically in England, a high tea was an early evening light meal for the working class. Currently, you will see it used as a social tea that's typically accompanied by meats and sandwiches, followed by dessert.



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