In Victorian times, low tea (also called a 'full tea') was a tea that was typically served in a 'parlor' or living room type of setting using side tables, and a tea cart or tea/coffee table to serve from.
Most modern afternoon teas offered in tea rooms/shops are low teas because of the nature of the food offered, but are served at a 'high' table.
N.B. A true high tea will be a full dinner with some or all of the following: soups, meats, casseroles, a vegetable dish or two, scones, breads, cakes and other sweets. The
Although more food options are served at this tea than say at a cream tea, like tea sandwiches, scones, special desserts, candies/chocolates... it is still considered a light meal, like a snack. Therefore, when helping yourself or being served, do not expect a lot of food. One or two of each item is normally appropriate. Seconds may be passed or a return to the buffet table may be indicated, but the same principle applies ~ one or two of each item.
So, for a low afternoon tea party your menu will look like this:
A low afternoon tea party can be set up to have all food available on a three tiered tray, laid out on a buffet, or can be served in courses.
If you serve your afternoon tea in courses you will bring out trays in this order:
Savories: Tea sandwiches, seasoned scones, and any other types of appetizers you will be offering.
Scones: Plain scones, sweet scones, other tea breads.
Sweets/Pastries: Tea cakes, cookies/biscuits, confections.
Otherwise you set up a tiered tray with the items in the same order, ie: Savories on the top, scones in the middle and then other sweets and pastries on the lowest tier.
If you are a guest and the tiered tray is brought to the table, it is sometimes replenished and sometimes not, so it is a good thing to look at how many of each item is provided per the number of people sitting at your table. If there is enough for everyone to only have one, please be considerate and only take one. If the tray is then replenished, by all means help yourself to another serving.