Etiquette and Tea Styles

August 18, 2016

Just Some of the Different Styles Of “Teas” Held, or Given, for the Enjoyment of this Popular Beverage

 

tea set
·The High Tea:  In the past, “High Tea” was considered the tea of the working-class rather than the tea of the elite. This tea was a hearty affair. Meat pies, rarebit, shepherd’s pies, slices of roast, sausage, vegetables, casseroles, puddings, and heavy desserts and other dinner time staples usually made with leftovers were commonly served.

The term “High” came about because the tea meal was taken at a high dining table, or with high back chairs all around a table. This was to distinguish the meal from the Afternoon Tea that was taken at low tables.

Members of the Gold Star Wives, enjoying a buffet of fruit, finger sandwiches, cheese and vegetables Friday at the Military Widows and Widowers High Tea event.

Members of the Gold Star Wives, enjoying a buffet of fruit, finger sandwiches, cheese and vegetables Friday at the Military Widows and Widowers High Tea event.

In recent years, High Tea has become a term for elaborate Afternoon Tea, though this is an American usage and mainly unrecognized in Britain (with the exception of some London hotels, catering to tourists.) It is usually served between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm.

High Tea is also sometimes confused with the teas that King Edward VII hosted during his reign from 1901-1910. Edward had so many meals in his daily schedule he had to change everyone else’s schedules. His dinner time was pushed forward another hour or so to 8:30 pm or 9:00 pm. High Tea could now be held even later in the afternoon.

King Edward VII of England and Queen Alexandra

King Edward VII of England and Queen Alexandra

Known for his huge appetite, the King ate no less than 12 courses at dinner and is responsible for adding “appetizers” to the dinner menus of British society. This change brought it closer in line to what most Americans think of as a dinner time (around 5:00 pm).

Afternoon tea by Rene Lelong

Afternoon tea by Rene Lelong

·The Formal Afternoon Tea: A “Formal Afternoon Tea” is an elaborate affair with white linens, silver, hats and gloves, bone china, and several different types of tea. Darjeeling and Ceylon varieties are suggested for this teatime. Tea fare consists of scones, at least four varieties of savories, and beautiful finger desserts or petits fours, presented on three-tiered racks, often buffet style.

Traditional service time is 4:00 pm, however any time between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm is appropriate. (Please remember that proper etiquette dictates one remove those gloves before eating or drinking anything!)

Marshall Field Tea Room. The Historic Marshall Field and Company Building was Chicago’s leading department store founded in 1892. This 12 story building included a tea room, pictured here.

Marshall Field Tea Room. The Historic Marshall Field and Company Building was Chicago’s leading department store founded in 1892. This 12 story building included a tea room, pictured here.

·The Afternoon Tea or The Low Tea: An Afternoon Tea or “Low Tea” is designed to enhance social skills and usually is served in fine fashion and in several courses. Some believe the term “Low Tea” may come from the fact that hotels have traditionally used low tables in their lobbies to hold the foods and tea service presented at afternoon teas.

This full-tea service includes scones, savories, and a variety of petits fours. It is traditionally served at 4:00 pm, however, any time between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm is appropriate.

Group of women enjoying their tea in Queensland, ca. 1887.

Group of women enjoying their tea in Queensland, ca. 1887.

·The Special Event and/or The Seasonal Tea: These teas are designed for a season, occasion, or personal style for the hostess or honored guest. Although these teas require more planning, they also provide an opportunity for creativity in themes, menus, table settings, favors and invitations. Examples include; bridal teas, sweetheart teas, Christmas teas, harvest teas, baby shower teas, business teas, retirement teas, graduation teas, garden teas, and benefit teas.

Tiered_desert_display

·The Cream Tea: These Cream Teas are fondly known as afternoon “sweet-tooth teas” in some circles. They feature heavy, clotted cream from Devonshire, that is slathered on scones, rather than any cream added to the tea.

Cream is much too rich to accompany tea, as it will curdle; milk is the preferred addition. Besides scones, this tea includes fresh fruits, berries in season, and cake. Cream Teas are traditionally served from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Diamond Jubilee Scones. Click here to try this recipe!

Diamond Jubilee Scones. Click here to try this recipe!

·The Brunch Tea: A hearty tea, Brunch Tea is a wonderful way to start the day. A Brunch Tea usually offers an egg dish, fresh fruit, or pasties which are light on sugar content. This is the perfect time to seek a hearty breakfast tea, since the traditional time is from10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Teatime for the Cardinal

·The Teddy Bear Tea: This special tea, (in actuality, it is hot chocolate), was prepared by nannies for their young charges. The children would scurry off to their quarters to play with their favorite dolls or bears and sip hot chocolate while munching on goodies from the adults’ tea table.

Two Chocolate cups. Top: Vienna, Treasury of the German Order. Silver Chocolate drinking ware, 17th century. Photo by Wolfgang Sauber. Bottom: Chocolate trembleuse cup with a Cardinal's coat-of-arms, c. 1735, Du Paquier factory

Two Chocolate cups. Top: Vienna, Treasury of the German Order. Silver Chocolate drinking ware, 17th century. Photo by Wolfgang Sauber.
Bottom: Chocolate trembleuse cup with a Cardinal’s coat-of-arms, c. 1735, Du Paquier factory

·The “Elevenses”: The term “Elevenses” is a British version of the American office “coffee break,” between 10am and 11am in the morning. The coffee break originated from the old “Second Breakfast” of European immigrants to the United States. In Britain, a tea cart with tea, crumpets, scones, or cinnamon toast is wheeled in for the break.

A mobile tea canteen for the British Army in North Africa 1942.

A mobile tea canteen for the British Army in North Africa 1942.

A post script: Remember…  one drinks tea. One does not take tea. During the Victorian era, the term to take tea was used by the under classes and considered a vulgar expression by the upper classes.

Contributor Bernadette Petrotta is the Director and founder of The Polite Society School of Etiquette. Her newest book is “The Art and Proper Etiquette of Afternoon Tea.”
 

 

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 538

Of Interest:

Queen Elizabeth II Tea Scones Recipe

Afternoon tea: a custom that helped bond an empire ― Diamond Jubilee scone recipe

Teacups and mugs: quality and quantity

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