Introduced in the year 1840 by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, afternoon tea began as a simple solution to prevent what the Duchess termed “that sinking feeling.” Because the socially dictated time for a formal dinner was 7:30, the Duchess was simply looking for a quick snack to tide her over. What started out as bread and butter quickly morphed into tea and toast. Then, as the Duchess’s friends caught wind of what she was doing – and embraced the idea – her teatime (enhanced with even more food) soon became a social hour where she entertained a myriad of friends, artists, and writers. Over time, this new trend evolved into the ritual of tea, food, and manners that we observe today.
Wait a minute, you might say. Manners? Well, yes. We’re not talking hidebound, stiff-upper-lip British manners here, just a few simple rules of tea etiquette that you’d probably want to observe if you’re attending a tea party or visiting a tea salon.
To start with, there’s actually an order in which teatime fare should be enjoyed. The general rule of thumb is to eat tea sandwiches first, then scones, and then sweets. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, however, and some folks prefer to begin with a scone.
Just don’t cut your scone in half and start slathering on jam and Devonshire cream. The proper way to eat a scone is to place it on your plate, tear off a bite-sized piece, and then apply a bit of jam and Devonshire cream with your knife.
When it comes to drinking tea, it’s customary for the host (or waitress) to pour the tea, and for the teapot to be left on the table. The proper way to drink tea is to lift up your cup, leaving the saucer on the table, and then placing your cup back on the saucer in between sips. The age old question of whether milk should be poured before or after the tea is still being debated, but it’s really become a matter of personal preference.
Once seen as a sign of elegance and class, the raised pinkie finger is now out of vogue. What else is important? Be sure to take time and thoroughly enjoy your tea experience. Sometimes the very act of inhaling a tea’s aroma can be akin to aromatherapy. Tea drinking can soothe, relax, and lull you into a state of calm.
At the end of your tea, when you’re ready to leave, fold your napkin neatly and place it on the left side of your plate. That’s a clear indicator to your host that you’d like to be invited back!
And if you’d like to vicariously attend a tea party, then you might enjoy reading my newest mystery Broken Bone China. Here’s the Cliff’s Note on it:
After catering a formal tea at a hot-air balloon rally, tea shop maven Theodosia and her tea sommelier Drayton bask in a hot air balloon ride. But as the skies darken, a rogue drone buzzes in and strikes a nearby balloon, causing an enormous, fiery explosion. People are dead and one of them is Don Kingsley, software bigwig and owner of a rare Revolutionary War Union Jack flag. As Kingsley’s widow presses Theodosia for help, suspects abound in the form of rival antiques dealers, museum representatives, and private collectors. Five million dollars is also missing from the software firm and the fiancé of Angie Congdon (Theodosia’s dear friend and B and B owner) also becomes a prime suspect. In the midst of all this drama, Theodosia still has to charm her tea shop guests, manage the photo shoot at Drayton’s historic home, and pull off a Beaux Arts Tea, her most elaborate tea party yet. In the tradition of all my previous New York Times bestselling thriller-cozies (thrillzies!), Broken Bone China delivers a breakneck pace, heart-warming moments, and recipes that include Eggnog Scones, Strawberry Butter, Banana Pudding Pie, Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms, and Sea Scallops with Brown Butter.
Thanks for reading this!
Laura Childs is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life, Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.
Find out more about the author at laurachilds.com or on Facebook at LauraChildsAuthor.