Lynn, Nan, Bernie, Felice, and Mary were beside themselves. A full-page ad in the Colorado Springs Daily News touted a local charity’s “high tea” planned for that Christmas. The five longtime friends, out enjoying their monthly custom of gathering at a local tearoom, bemoaned the fact that the good people of their area persisted in referring to afternoon tea as high tea.
Lynn, a recently retired tearoom owner, pantomimed banging her head on a table. “I’ve flat given up,” she said. “I called mine afternoon tea for years, even explained what high tea is, and yet women called me every single week wanting to make reservations for high tea. Every. Single. Week.”
Nan, a certified tea educator who taught classes on teatime, said she would continue to teach that afternoon tea was the leisurely afternoon tea meal consisting of savories, sweets, and scones. “And yes, I will continue to tell them that high tea is actually a lowbrow affair that was taken at a high dining table, a meal consisting not of tea sandwiches and scones but of meats, cheese, and the like.”
“You’re not educating them fast enough,” said Bernie, short for Bernadette, a registered nurse. “Every time I wear my teapot pin on my scrubs at the hospital, I get asked if I’ve ever been to high tea. I once tried to correct a patient, but when some middle-aged woman is trying to recover from a heart attack, it’s not a good idea to get her riled up over the definition of high tea.”
“Humph,” said Felice, an accountant. “They’re going to give me a heart attack if they don’t quit calling it high tea!”
Mary, a retired teacher, just smiled and didn’t say a word.
“Why are you so quiet, Mary?” said Bernie. “Usually, you’re madder than anyone when people refer to afternoon tea as high tea.”
“Ladies, I have a plan,” Mary said.
“I’m all ears,” said Felice. “Spill it.”
Mary looked around, and all eyes were on her. “Now our state’s been in the news ever since marijuana was legalized for recreational use a few years back, right?”’
“Yes, but what’s that got to do with anything?” Lynn said.
“How many middle-aged women like us are into marijuana?”
“Well, now, there was that one time that I—”
“Don’t go there, Felice,” said Mary. “We don’t need to be reminded of how you ‘experimented’ back in college. That doesn’t count. We’re talking about regular marijuana use here.”
The others looked on, intrigued, and Mary continued. “Just think about it. What if we convinced everyone that high tea really meant … HIGH tea!”
“How would we do that?” Bernie asked.
“Easy,” Mary said. “We’re going to use our powers for good and spread a rumor that high tea is really just code for a good old-fashioned pot party. And what proper afternoon-tea-loving gal is going to go for that?”
“I don’t know,” said Nan. “We know that’s not really what high tea is …”
“Yeah, and look how far that’s gotten us,” said Lynn. “I’m in.”
“Me, too,” said Felice. “If it gets everyone to stop calling afternoon tea high tea, then I’m all for it.”
Slowly, the others came around.
“We’ll start with the tearoom owners,” said Mary.
“But the tearoom owners already know what high tea is, they just don’t know how to politely inform their customers,” said Lynn. “Believe me, I know. I’ve talked to plenty of them about it over the years. They’re so afraid of offending someone, it’s easier for them to remain silent.”
“I think most women want to know what’s correct,” said Nan. “I don’t think those tearoom owners are giving them enough credit.”
Soon, a plan unfolded. Mary assigned each of the women a tearoom or two to call and inquire whether it was true that they offered high tea. If the tearoom owner said yes, then the woman asked her to describe the menu. If the “high tea” menu included typical afternoon tea fare, the caller would say, “Oh, I always thought that was called afternoon tea. My women’s club heard that high tea referred to teas where they serve marijuana brownies and things like that. You’re sure your tearoom is on the up-and-up?”
Naturally, some of the tearoom owners were horrified that patrons might think they were engaging in anything even remotely scandalous.
The next month, the five friends met again at a local tearoom and filled each other in on their campaign to curb the misuse of the term “high tea.”
Felice said one tearoom owner had hung up on her, thinking the call was a prank, but Lynn and Bernie both had good responses from businesswomen who suddenly wanted to clarify that what they offered was actually afternoon tea, not high tea.
Mary had called the newspaper that ran the “High Tea” ad and asked for the advertising director, then inquired if he knew whether high tea was referring to marijuana use at that upcoming charity tea. There in the tearoom, she whipped out for her friends a full-page ad for the festive Christmas event suddenly featuring “English Afternoon Tea” rather than the “High Tea” advertised earlier.
“We’re obviously starting to make some headway here, so I think we need to do something to celebrate,” said Mary. She turned to her friends, who were all sipping tea from their bone china teacups. “Suggestions?”
“Yes,” said Bernie. “I think we should have a true high tea!”
“Perfect,” agreed Nan. “Let’s decide on a menu while we’re all here.”
And soon enough, the ladies were offering to prepare meat pies, hot buttered toast, plain scones, fruit, cheese, chocolate cake and other foods for the meal.
“To high tea,” said Mary, holding her teacup aloft.
Four others quickly joined her, lightly clinking their cups together and laughing as they said, “To high tea!”