|An informal outdoor tea in the open, on the lawn or in the garden, is perfect for when the weather is nice, or if your guests aren't planning on staying too long.|
Afternoon teas are of two kinds, formal and informal, and the informal outdoor tea in the open, on the lawn or in the garden, is a variant of the latter variety. Here the tea wagon comes into play, and tea is often tea in name only, since at summer outdoor teas not only iced tea, but iced coffee, iced chocolate or punch are often served.
The Informal Tea
Do not set a table for the informal tea. The tea service is merely brought to the sun parlor, drawing room or living room in which the tea is to be served, and placed on the table. There the hostess makes and pours the tea, unless she prefers to have it brought in on a tea tray already made for pouring.
The tea service comprises: a teakettle for boiling water with filled alcohol lamp and matches; a tea caddy with teaspoon and (if only a few cups are to be made) a tea ball. A tea creamer, cut sugar, a saucer of sliced lemon, and cups and saucers with spoon on cup saucer, as well as tea napkins complete the service. The water brought in the teakettle should be hot. If this precaution is observed, the tea will boil very soon after the lamp is lighted. The sandwiches served at an informal afternoon tea should be very simple: lettuce, olive or nut butter, or plain bread and butter, nor should the small cakes also passed be elaborate or rich.
The Formal Tea
The formal tea—a tea becomes formal as soon as cards are sent out for it—is a very different affair. As many as four ladies may pour, two during the first, and two during the second hour. Friends of the hostess—they serve all refreshments, though waitresses assist, removing soiled cups and plates and bringing in fresh ones—preside at either table end, and the table is decorated (flowers and candles). At one end of the luncheon cloth (or the table may be laid with doilies) stands the service tray, with teapot, hot-water pot, creamer, sugar bowl with tongs and cut sugar, and sliced lemons in dish with lemon fork. The tray also contains cup and saucers (each saucer with spoon, handle paralleling cup). The coffee, bouillon or chocolate service is established in the same manner at the other end of the table. If coffee is served, the service tray is equipped with urn, cream and sugar; if chocolate, whipped cream in bowl with ladle; if bouillon, the urn alone.
Each lady who pours must have a large napkin convenient to guard her gown. Arranged along the table should be plates of sandwiches and cakes, bonbon dishes and dishes with salted nuts. But the table must not be crowded. This important rule is responsible for the existence of the frappe table.
The frappe table holds the afternoon tea punch. Since the dining room is apt to be well filled as it is, the frappe table had best be established in some other room. On its luncheon cloth is set the punch or frappe bowl with ladle, and individual ices, frozen creams (not too rich or elaborate) or punch are served in frappe or punch bowls by a friend of the hostess. The small plates on which the frappe glasses are served should be piled on the table with doilies (linen always) between the plates. When served, the glass is filled with the sherbet or cream, and a sherbet spoon laid at the right-hand side of plate (a tray of sherbet spoons belongs to the frappe table equipment, as well as a filled cake basket, dishes of candy, piles of small plates and small linen napkins). Unless you are entertaining guests to the number of a hundred or more, never use paper doilies at a formal afternoon tea!
A pretty custom dictates that young girl friends of the hostess serve the guests. They provide the latter with plate and napkin, ask their choice of beverage, and serve it, together with sandwiches and cakes. Or the plates and napkins may be handed the guests as they enter by a waitress stationed at the door, before they are served by the young girls.
A salad should never be offered at a formal afternoon tea! To do so is to commit a social solecism.” — From Lillian B. Lansdown's 1922, “How to Prepare and Serve a Meal; and Interior Decoration.”
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia