Tea has been a custom in several different countries for centuries. The traditional tea time from
is the tea we are most familiar with. It
is a time honored practice in the England United
Kingdom and has been widely adopted in . America
There are some key factors to consider when preparing a table for tea.
Will everyone be seated at the table or will it be buffet style?
Who will be attending? Will it be formal or informal?
What type of tea shall be served? Low tea or High tea?
Low tea or Afternoon tea is a light meal of pastries, fruit, finger sandwiches and, of course, tea. It is a 'sweet' tea where cake and scones are served. Low tea is usually served between 2 and 4 pm and is often mistakenly called High tea.
High tea is less common today. It originally was a light dinner served at 6 pm. A true High tea consists of meat and vegetables. It is a more savory menu than sweet.
Low tea was often served on a low table, hence the name. It was more buffet style and the guests served themselves. A buffet style tea can be set up at a dining room table, but the dining chairs should be removed. A tablecloth may be placed on the table. Traditionally it is a white tablecloth, or lace. The teapot should be placed at the end of the table. If coffee or chocolate is to be served it should be placed on the opposite side of the table from the tea. The teacups and teaspoons are placed near the teapot to make a serving area. Dessert plates should be stacked next to napkins, forks, and knives. Decorations and candles are arranged to enhance the appearance of the table. The food should be arranged sensibly. Jams and sauces are to be placed next to the food item they are intended for.
If the tea is to be taken seated at the table the rules are slightly different. Floral arrangements and decorations should be of a size that allows easy viewing of the persons seated across from one another. Place settings will take up more room on the table. A separate tea service area is an option when space is limited. A place setting for Low tea is informal. It consists of a dessert plate at each place setting. The fork is placed to the left of the plate with the napkin folded and placed left of the fork. The knife goes to the right of the plate with the blade turned in and the teaspoon to the right of the knife. The place setting should be one inch away from the edge of the table. A water glass is above the plate and to the right. The teacup is to the right of the water glass. For appearance the teacup may start out on the dessert plate for a pretty layered look, but be sure to leave room for the cup to be moved to the proper position.
High tea will require a more complete place setting because it is more of a sit down dinner. The pieces placed at each setting depends upon the occasion. Follow the general rules on how to set a table.
The place setting photos came from a blog about tea party ideas. Great visual!
Flowers add a beautiful touch to the table. Keep the arrangement simple. It doesn't have to be expensive. Look for small containers at discount stores, dollar stores, and thrift stores. Be creative. Find a reasonable florist or better yet, grow your own. Allow the seasons and holidays to guide the floral selection. Add touches like lace during the spring and cinnamon sticks for the fall.
Candles and candle holders are as versatile as the floral arrangements. Add embellishments to dollar store finds. Use printed quotes by favorite authors, sheet music, and ribbon to add a personal touch to the table. It doesn't have to be expensive; thrift stores and garage sales offer an endless supply of unique options.
A very formal tea would require a matching china and tea set. Low tea or High tea served at home does not require such formality. Mismatched sets are acceptable, but the pieces should not be chipped or have crackling. Look for serving platters at thrift stores and garage sales. Discount stores also carry tea table items.
Daily tea can be a relaxing break from a hectic schedule. A family sit down tea can be a wonderful after church tradition on Sundays. However you implement it in your life, tea time is a great way to spend a bit of time with family and friends.
1. Invitations should be sent out. The type of invitation depends of the formality of the party.
2. Proper etiquette begins with the hostess. Introduce guests and start conversations.
3. The hostess pours the tea. She is also responsible for making sure to refill everyone's cups.
4. Milk is always served, never cream. Do not add milk to a tea that has lemon. The citrus will spoil the milk.
5. Sugar is added first with the tongs. Then the tea is poured. Milk is added last so that the proper amount can be judged by the color of the tea.
6. If standing when taking a sip of tea, keep the cup on the saucer until it is closer to the mouth. This is not necessary when sitting.
7. Always look into the cup as you sip, do not look over your cup.
8. Do not put your pinky up. The 'pinky up' method actually applies to eating, not drinking. When eating, upper class persons would pick up items with only three fingers instead of five. This is where the 'pinky up' came from and that is still acceptable.
9. Avoid making loud noises, such as clinking, with the china or other tea items.
10. Never place soiled utensils on table linens. Place the spoon on a spoon rest or on the saucer, behind the cup. Remove the spoon when taking a drink. Never leave the spoon in your cup.
11. Use your knife to spread jams and creams onto your food. Do not use the serving utensils. Place your knife on the edge of the plate or on a knife rest when done.
12. Take small bites.
13. At the beginning of the meal place your napkin in your lap.
14. Do not wipe your mouth with the napkin; blot it instead. If you are wearing lipstick do not even blot your mouth on the linen napkin. Instead, use a tissue or a paper napkin.
15. Leave your napkin on your chair if you have to leave the table.
16. Wait for the hostess to signal that the meal is finished. When it is over grab the napkin at the center and place it to the left of the plate. Do not refold the napkin.
17. Always thank the hostess for a lovely time when you are leaving. If you are the hostess, make sure to thank your guests for coming.