Thursday, May 14, 2015

Etiquette and American Tea Culture

Now and then one sees men scattered through the fashionable throng enjoying a cup of fragrant tea instead of a more masculine kind of drink. It is the fashion now to invite your friends to take tea with you and a fashion that is both sane and enjoyable.

Will You Have a Cup of Tea? 

Every Woman is Serving It Now

Everybody takes afternoon tea now. Society women meet for a little chat and a bite to eat when sipping their favorite Ceylon or Formosa; business women leave their work a few minutes early or snatch a short respite for the pleasure of the tea drinking hour; matinee girls have transferred their affections from ice cream sodas to Oolong and sweets, and now and then one sees men scattered through the fashionable throng enjoying a cup of fragrant tea, instead of a more masculine kind of drink. It is the fashion now to invite your friends to take tea with you and a fashion that is both sane and enjoyable.
Tea was always fashionable in some circles. 

If there is the least lingering doubt in the mind of any one as to the popularity of the tea our glimpse through any of the fashionable restaurants or small tearooms will dissipate the suspicion forever. Once it was the luncheon hour at which Women gathered for gossip and refreshment, but now that tea hour is the time set for this combination of pleasures. Luncheon parties are still given, but they are not half so popular and entertaining as the 5 o'clock tea gathering.

Informal tea drinking at home exists, or rather the fashion is being introduced in many homes with the serving of afternoon tea was an event instead of a daily occurrence. Friends dropping in on their way home from A shopping tour or after the matinee supply the atmosphere of the chatty crowded two rooms overlooking Fifth Avenue, but the home tea is never quite the same as the more brilliant and kaleidoscopic scene of the restaurant tea room. There women meet their friends, see the newest fashions, and hear the latest tidbit of gossip.
Tea was introduced to Americans by the British
Having been introduced to the tea drinking habit by the English, we have made of variation or two in which does not diminish the social function's popularity, though it converts it into a more substantial repast than the original afternoon tea. Either we shall have to advance the regular tea hour, or adjust the dinner one hour, said a well-known restauranteur when discussing the growing habit of tea drinking in this country.
Oh yes! We American women are fond of eating cakes and French pastry!
American women are so fond of eating cakes, sandwiches, French pastry, and ices with their afternoon tea that their appetites must suffer and their weights increase. They partake of a substantial tea at 5:00 or 5:30 and dine between 6 and 7. There is a greater demand each season for French pastry with tea while the modest little sandwich and the wafer recede further and further into the deep recesses of the stewards' domain.
A plate of cakes and dainties.

Tea and muffins, tea and toast, or tea and crumpets, used to form the menu for either a restaurant tea or one served at home, and when these dainties are perfectly prepared and brought in crisp and hot, there is nothing more delicious. Currant buns are a sweet and appetizing accompaniment to a fragrant cup of tea and in certain tea rooms, they are a specialty.                
Americans now have the distinction of being called tea connoisseurs — and this is a distinction indeed when one has sampled a few of the foreign brew afternoon beverages that are made in a teapot.
The hostess can pick up many useful ideas on tea serving and what to have with tea from the best restaurants and tea rooms. She will find that her guests like muffins, sandwiches and buns and that they revel in sweets, so that it is always wise to include some cakes among the tea table viands. 
A plate of plain bread and butter sandwiches cut very thin and perfectly fresh should be served with the other delicacies. There will be some guests who prefer the simple fare to the more elaborate sweets of the American tea table. Brown bread treated in the same way is excellent with tea and offers a little variation to the white bread. The home tea table should excel in this particular dainty, for it is easy to prepare and one of the most difficult orders to have filled satisfactorily in a restaurant.
Nut mixtures spread between thin slices of bread, thin layers of cheese or cream cheese mixed with seasoning and nuts and either brown or white bread with crisp lettuce leaves and a bit of mayonnaise will prove an inspiration to the woman who is flagged from a tiresome shopping trip or a long interview with her dressmaker. The host of palatable tea table sandwiches is almost limitless if the hostess will only take the trouble to prepare them, or see that they are prepared.
Reading tea leaves to tell one's fortune, was a popular pastime.
Where the cook is accomplished in the art of scone making, these delicious Southern dainties should by all means have a place of honor on the afternoon tea table. One woman owes a large part of her social success and popularity to the scones and tea she serves two or three afternoons a week. 
Women as well as men are susceptible to culinary attractions, and few can resist the crisp yellow brown scones that come piping hot from the oven and are spread with melting butter. 
A samovar is worth its weight in gold in the making of perfect tea. In fact, tea rooms depend entirely upon those tall Russian water heaters for the perfect preparation of their afternoon tea, where cup after cup is made in quick succession. And in nearly all the fashionable tea rooms you will see these brass ornamental objects steaming merrily behind tall vases of flowers and surrounded by a regiment of china teapots. 
A much prized recipe for afternoon tea biscuits, one that is not even confided to a friend, but has been treasured by a single household for generations, has a mixture of mustard and cheese that baffles the analytical powers of all who partake of this delicacy. It is one of the simplest tea table accompaniments. Tea biscuits, either homemade or those that come from a good bakery, form the foundation of this appetizing viand. 
The biscuits are split open, and each half is spread with a little mustard, then sprinkled with grated cheese and spread with butter, and the disks are ready for a visit to the hot oven, where they should remain long enough to convert the tops of the biscuits into a rich yellow brown crust and to heat them all the way through. Afterward, they should be taken from the oven and served immediately before the cheese takes on a gummy consistency. This unusual and simply prepared tea delicacy will tempt any woman to run the risk of spoiling her appetite for dinner, even spoiling her complexion, one might almost say, for the sake of tasting the dainty piquant morsel, as it fairly melts in her mouth.  
Americans now have the distinction of being called tea connoisseurs — and this is a distinction indeed when one has sampled a few of the foreign brew afternoon beverages that are made in a really. Not only do we know good tea, but we understand the art of serving, which is quite as important as the selection of leaves. English breakfast tea with cream is the favorite brand served in the restaurant tearooms, while Ceylon, Formosa, and some of the special blends taken with thin slices of lemon and sugar have a host of devotees. 
Tea connoisseurs?
Novices who preside over a samovar, often encounter a great difficulty deal of difficulty in lighting the charcoal and keeping the fire burning. Where the tea hour extends over a long period and hot water must be at hand all the time the Samovar requires occasional replenishing both with water and fuel. After the handful or more of charcoal has been dropped into the chimney — and it must be remembered that the charcoal should be sorted and only the good pieces retained as the others will smoke — a little alcohol poured over the fuel before lighting will start it burning merrily. Afterward one need only glance into the chimney now and then to see that there is enough fuel.
Sparks and black cinders will fly upward and then settle over every object in the room, including the guests, if the charcoal is dropped into the fire carelessly. The proper way is to let it fall gently to the bottom of the chimney or else remove the samovar from the room during the act of replenishing.

Studio tea hosts and hostesses favor the samovar on account of the picturesque note it gives to the surroundings. Others have looked upon the Russian water heater as an affectation, useless and awkward, because they did not know how to use it. Restaurants have given it a place of honor on the tea table and consider it essential to perfect tea making and serving. — From The San Francisco Call, November 1908
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura Graber, is the

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