What is the difference between buffet and high tea?

What is the difference between buffet and high tea?

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  1. To take the second first, High Tea is a bit of an institution in the north of England, parts of Scotland and a lot of Northern Ireland. It’s a sit-down, early-evening meal, usually including the whole family. (Laurie K has made the understandable mistake of confusing it with “afternoon tea”, which is much lighter, served mid-afternoon, and all the rage in restaurants and hotels at the moment.)
    High Tea combines savoury elements (maybe a hotpot with mashed potatoes, or some roast chicken with roasties and a veg or two, and even possibly bread and butter or bread-and-dripping as well) with cups of tea and, as a second, sweet, course, baked (often home-made) things like scones, biscuits and cakes, and maybe a bowl of canned fruit with Condensed Milk.
    High Tea is very much a working-class tradition (some of the giveaways here are canned rather than fresh fruit, and bread-and-dripping). There are a few exceptions (for example, in a great house in 1905 you might find High Tea served in the Nursery to the younger children and their nannies, with the adults eating Dinner later on, typically at 8 pm).
    In contrast , a buffet can take place at any time of day. The style is basically that lots of choices of food are set out on tables, and people pick up a plate and some cutlery and serve themselves informally, sometimes coming back for more. Laurie is absolutely right that it’s a good way of serving a lot of people at once.
    However, it doesn’t always involve sitting down at tables. I remember attending a wedding reception some years back where the buffet lunch food was very good, but there were few chairs and almost no spare tables to sit at. This was pretty difficult for elderly guests, and demanding for anyone of any age who had travelled a long way and was tired. It’s certainly best practice to provide tables and seating nowadays, and much more common now than then.
    Some would say that a buffet is classless (that is, the UK meaning of not attached to any one class tradition). But going back to those great houses, breakfast was frequently a buffet in 1905, often showing off dishes learned from India during the Raj, such as Kedgeree which is delicious.
    These days, a lot of hotels serve breakfast as a buffet. In these sometimes allergically litigious times, it’s one way of transferring liability to the customer for what they eat; it also saves enormously on staff time.
    Thanks for reading and HTH

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  2. A buffet a way of serving a meal, most often used when there is a large number of people to be served. It is a form of self service. A table (or tables) are laid out with the food in platters and bowls, with serving implements. Diners pick up an empty plate and pass along the displays of food. They help themselves to whatever they want to eat, before finding a seat at a table where they can eat it. Any meal — breakfast, lunch or the evening meal — can be served buffet style.
    High tea is a meal served in the late afternoon or early evening. It consists of dainty sandwiches, small cakes, scones with jam and the like, usually served on a special multiple level serving dish at the table where the diner is seated. The beverage is a pot of tea. The diner chooses what to eat from the serving dish.

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