High tea, unlike high society, high fashion, or high finance, doesn't denote a "higher" or therefore fancier version of afternoon tea, but the height of the table (i.e. the kitchen, or dinner table) and the lateness of the hour, which is approximately 5- 6 PM instead of the usual 4. While little sandwiches, bread and sweets are the usual afternoon tea accompaniments, along with sherry and/or Champagne for a "Queen's" or "Royale" tea (some people add other cocktails as well), the signature dish of High Tea is the soft-boiled egg, followed closely by cold meat, cheese, savories, and other hearty foods with cake as a sweet. Alcohol, if served at all, is usually ale.

It is, therefore, more of a nursery, or workingman's meal, served after work or school and can (and often does) take the place of dinner. This peculiar meal is therefore more related to the menus of the old-fashioned New England tearoom of the early 20th century and the new-fashioned tea banquet than the lavish displays of dainties often proffered by American luxury hotels under the name of a "a Victorian high tea".

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