The Beginnings of the Afternoon Tea RitualThe British ritual of afternoon tea is attributed to Anna Maria, 7th Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess was staying as a guest to John Manners, the 5th Duke of Rutland, at Belvoir Castle (pronounced beaver) in Leicestershire when she found herself experiencing a “sinking feeling” during the long hours between midday luncheon and late evening dinner. She requested a snack of tea and cake to curb her hunger and found that she so enjoyed it that she invited her friends to join her. She continued the social gatherings when she returned to her home at Woburn Abbey and even took her own silver tea equipment with her when she went to visit her friends in their castles and palaces.
|A stunning, late 19th century silver and enamel tea service. Tea services added to the ceremony of Victorian afternoon tea we know today.|
|An afternoon, or "low tea." High tea is a completely different meal in itself.|
The Charm of Afternoon Tea
|Drinking from a saucer is now only reserved for cats. Whereas it was once very common to see people drink from their saucers, it has been considered poor manners for the last hundred or more years. In the 1929 book Etiquette Junior, teens were advised, "Never blow on spoonfuls of food and never pour your coffee, tea or cocoa into a saucer to cool. In addition, remember not to hold your cup up in space while you talk or gesticulate with it." and "When lemon is served with tea, a small fork is usually provided to lift the slice of lemon into the cup."|
|A pivotal part of the tea table is the tea cup and saucer.|
The teaspoon is found resting to the back of the cup and saucer, its handle extending out to the right. When using your spoon be sure to stir the tea correctly. In aristocratic circles you are expected to move your tea spoon in a south to northerly direction without touching the sides of the tea cup. Stirring the spoon vigorously in circles around the cup is very uncivilised.
|Tea experts now say that to put milk in last is best as one can gauge the strength of the tea better.|
|Not only does Disney have it wrong on the pinky finger sticking out, but Alice having her elbows on the table, is certainly considered rude.|
|A tea, when presented correctly is actually a three course meal, hence the prettily decorated three-tier stand.|
The tea when presented correctly is actually a three course meal, hence the prettily decorated three-tier cake stand. Quite apart from being purely aesthetic, the cake stand represents the three courses and just like when dining you work from the outside in, when having tea you work from the bottom up. The bottom tier represents your first course and is usually laden with finger sandwiches, the middle tier sports warm, succulent looking scones and the top tier finishes the meal off with various cakes, pastries and petit fours. It is incorrect for the three tier cake stand to be arranged in any other way.
|Scones are properly broken with one's fingers. One should never be seen to cut a scone with a knife.|
|This looks delicious, but it is not the done thing to put the scone back together and form a kind of bulky sandwich.|
The ceremony of afternoon tea is a tradition grounded in history, grace and decorum, so be sure to savour every bite, enjoy every sip, and allow it to transport you back to a time of elegance and beauty no matter how you choose to drink it.
Contributor Rachel North is an etiquette and afternoon tea enthusiast with a love for anything ancient and historical. You can visit her here: http://shipshapeetiquette.co.uk/
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for
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