Saturday, January 14, 2012

Did you know that January is 
National Hot Tea Month? 

If you were invited to “take” Tea at a party would you be confident enough to navigate the event? Let’s take a moment to polish-up on our tea-time manners.

First we must know the terminology – there are various types of teas parties:

Afternoon Tea is served in the U.S. typically between the afternoon hours of three o’clock 
and five o’clock. A variety of teas are served along with three distinct courses – first, finger 
sandwiches are eaten, scones are next, and finally the sweet treat of pastries. In addition, 
afternoon tea is sometimes called “low tea” because it is served at low tables placed beside armchairs. 

Afternoon tea has been around for many centuries, but became popular in the 1840’s by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, who suffered hunger pains during the long afternoons between lunch and the late evening meal. It became the “it “ thing to do and eventually turned into a social affair among the English aristocracy.

High Tea - remember the biggest faux pas is to refer to afternoon tea as “high tea.” (You will be looked down upon as a novice tea drinker) Often times the term “high tea” is misused by people who want tea-time to sound more refined. Note to self: “high tea” is a hearty, simple, sit-down meal that the Industrial Revolution workers of the 19th century originated. The workers came home in the late afternoon from the fields, factories, and mines starved after a long and hard day of work. Traditionally the high tea meal was served in the late afternoon. It was set-up family style with tea to drink and meat to eat, now known as a supper buffet.

Royal Tea is a choice of tea and a four-course menu of finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, desserts and a glass of champagne or sherry. The addition of the glass of champagne or sherry is the distinction of “royal tea.”

Light Tea is a lighter version of afternoon tea. The menu excludes the fingers sandwiches but includes scones, sweets, and of course a variety of teas.

There are various ways to serve the food at a tea. A savvy host knows an easy and elegant way to present each course is on a tiered stand. The first course eaten is from the bottom tier and we work our way up.

The first tier (bottom) is reserved for the finger sandwiches. 
The second tier (middle) holds the scones. 
The third tier (top) is for the small pasties, tarts and other bite-size sweet desserts.

There are several “nevers” to remember:

Never fill your cup to the rim – it will only spill onto the saucer creating a dilemma. 
Never stir so others can hear it.  Do not allow the teaspoon to touch the sides of the cup. Quietly stir in a little figure-eight
         motion and place the spoon on the front-side of your cup. 
Never cradle the cup with your fingers. 
Never swirl the tea around in the cup as if it were a wine glass. 
Never-ever bounce the tea bag up and down in your cup to help the steeping process. 
Never drain a tea bag by winding the string around a spoon. 
Never place your empty cup, saucer and plate back on the tea table when you leave. The tea table is the display for the tea and
         food and should remain beautiful through the tea time. 

There are also several “always” we should adhere to at tea-time:

Always keep your tea cup and saucer close together, do not separate more than 12 inches apart. For example: if you are sitting
         on a sofa and lean back – pick up your saucer too, or if your stand up, do not leave the saucer sitting on the table. 
Always hold your saucer (with the teacup) in the palm of your hand at waist level and sip. (a silent sip!) 
Always request the tea bag be placed in the teapot first and the hot water added. 
Always pour tea in your cup first in order to judge the strength before adding lemon, sugar or milk. 
Always use lemon slices in your cup, instead of wedges. 
The handle of the spoon and the handle of the cup point to 4 o’clock. 
Always take your spoon out of your cup after stirring, then place your spoon in front of your cup 
Always request a saucer to hold the used tea bag, sugar wrappers or any disposables used. 
Always write your host a thank-you note after the tea party. 

  Hosting a tea in your home is a special way to entertain friends or even hold a business meeting. There is much to know about “tea-time” and this information will prepare you in advance and provide you the confidence needed to navigate the tea table.
Oh yes, and remember one more thing ... Do not raise your pinky finger up when holding a tea cup. It will guarantee you a place in the tea drinkers “hall of shame!”

So what is your favorite flavor of tea? 


christy said...

Interesting, I took note because I love tea and choose it over coffee. Funny when it say about not cradling the cup, so many do it yet it annoys me too, had no idea it was considered bad "tea etiqutte"!

...All Things Refined said...

Christy, glad you enjoyed the Tea-TIme article. There's much to know and it sounds like you have an innate sense of tea manners. xoJoy

Jacqueline said...

Who knew? That is really fun to read all the dos and donts. It would be fun to have a tea and then read the rules. Sounds perfect for the cold.

Red Couch Recipes said...

I have yet to go to a high tea. I am sure that if I did I would break many of the rules -- not the pinky one though. Growing up I loved to drink Celestial Seasoning's Sleepytime Tea -- I think it was because of the little bear on the box. Interesting post. Joni

Magaleis said...

What a lovely post! I would love to use your post and teach a small class at a "tea party" for some for some of the young girls in my church.
My own daughter is five and we have tea on a regular basis as I find she will listen to etiquette lesson in that setting.
My question relates to the placement of the spoon after stirring. When you say in front of you, do you mean the spoon is placed between yourself and the cup or in front of the cup so that your cup is between you and the spoon?
My girls at church will no doubt want every detail.
Thank you!

Socially Savvy said...

Hello Magalis,
Thrilled you will be able to teach tea etiquette at your Church. As for the spoon - it is placed behind the cup furthest away from you. Please let me know if I can help you with other questions.
All my best,