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In preface to my article Etiquette Faux Pas and Other Misconceptions About Afternoon Tea, I would like to clarify the distinctions between the classification of class status, etiquette, social protocols, morals, and ethics as per the dining/afternoon tea experience.
Etiquette and social protocols are not synonymous with morals or ethics. One has nothing to do with the other. A perfectly well mannered person may not have any morals, whilst in reverse a highly ethical person may not have the command of any social graces.
In addition, the term high class or upper class is often confused with one's economic/financial status.
In particular, during the Victorian Era, the upper class was not a social state one could achieve by economic measures. One was born into the upper class. The Victorian upper class represented a status of birthright that included ancestral lineage, where one received one's education and how one behaved and was received within a certain social circle. Many a famous author has chronicled the trials and tribulations of the "impoverished upper class".
Perhaps in today's modern times of the twenty-first century, the term upper class has transformed to become an identifying marker associated with one's economic/financial status. For the purpose of relating the protocols and etiquette of afternoon tea, all references apply to the Victorian era from whence afternoon tea was born.
Please note, the etiquette and protocols explained are not the rules of Ellen Easton, but the rules of foundation as created and passed down from the Victorian era.
As an example, the term "pinkies up" is just that, terminology. It does not mean that one should hold one's pinkie up in the air. If one reads the explanation carefully, one will learn the correct manner in which one holds one's teacup.
If one were to ask me my definition of the term class, I would have every hope that true class transcends one's economic status, race, creed and color. My definition of class is to be well mannered, considerate and to treat all others with dignity.
Afternoon tea was created to foster friendship. May all of your afternoon's always be filled with good tea and good friends.
After reviewing a copy of Etiquette Faux Pas and Other Misconceptions About Afternoon Tea by Ellen Easton, sources in the British Royal Household confirm the information as correct with the comments: "We would not make any amendments to the text" and "What a good article." - September, 2004
Four Course Tea: Photo by Ellen Easton ©1997 - All Rights Reserved; A Rose Tea- Photo By Ellen Easton ©2007 - All Rights Reserved;
Hand Decorated Rose Sugar By Reva Paul © - All Rights Reserved
Of course the tea police will not be lurking behind your kettles, but if one is going to embrace such a lovely and genteel genre I would like to set the record straight. I feel privileged to be able to share with you the protocols that have been passed down from century to century.
Originally, all porcelain teacups were made in China, starting around 620 A.D. These small cups had no handles. In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel was to place one's thumb at the six o'clock position and one's index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one's pinkie up for balance.
In Europe, when the Meissen Porcelain Company, in 1710, introduced the handle to the teacup, the tradition continued. By placing one's fingers to the front and back of the handle, called pinching the handle with one's pinkie extended downward or to the side, pinkie up, again allows balance. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills.
Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.
Originally, a truly formal table had only one correct placement for a napkin, to the left side of the place setting. The napkin, when placed to the left of the place setting, should be folded with the closed edge to the left and the open edge to the right. There are no exceptions! This rule applies for rectangular, triangular, and square shape folds. Note: Originally, less formal affairs allowed a fancy folded napkin to be placed in the center of the place setting. Today, due to table settings being closer together formal affairs do allow for a napkin to be placed in the center of a place setting. A truly formal affair will not place a napkin in a glass.
Contrary to recent “experts” advice, there is never a proper moment for one to place one’s napkin on a chair. The proper protocol when excusing oneself from the table, whether during or after a dining experience, is to gently place one’s napkin to the left side of your place setting. This rule is not negotiable for the simple reason if one’s napkin were soiled it could damage the seat covering, damage that may be either costly to repair or irreplaceable. While the risk for soiling a cloth also exists, the cloth can be laundered with relative ease.
Upon completion of a dining experience, a napkin folded with a crease and placed to the left side of your place setting indicates to your host or hostess that you wish to be invited back.
The expression, “to make ends meet”, derives from the 1729 French Court. The dress code for men included decorative stiff ruffled collars. When dining, a napkin was tied around the neck to protect their collars, hence the expression.
Twelve-inch napkins are used for Afternoon Tea service.
How To Eat A Scone:
Again, contrary to recent “experts” advice (now I understand how rumors get started!), it is not only improper to slice a scone, in its ENTIRETY (horizontally to be slathered in jam and cream), it is considered very common behavior! Although some establishments will serve a sliced scone pre-prepared with jam and cream, this is merely a gimmick introduced to save time (It may now be ”acceptable” but it will never be correct). A hostess should instruct and insist that the scones, for large functions or buffets, be made smaller into bite size ”standing room” size.
The correct manner in which one eats a scone is the same manner in
which one eats a dinner roll. Simply break off a bite-size piece,
place it on your plate, and then apply, with your bread and butter
knife, the jam and cream. A fork is not used to eat a scone. Please,
Afternoon Tea food Placement For A Three-Tier Curate Stand:
Middle tier = Savories and Tea sandwiches.
Bottom tier = Sweets
Aside from the health issues, the smoke will be absorbed into the tea and ruin the flavor.
Stirring Tea and Spoon Placement:
Do not stir your tea, with your tea spoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times.
Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup. When not in use, place your tea spoon on the right side of the tea saucer.
Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer.
If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap.
Do not use your tea to wash down food. Sip, don’t slurp, your tea and swallow before eating.
Milk - before or after? Originally all tea cups in Europe were made from soft paste porcelain. The milk was added first to temper the cups from cracking. Once hard paste porcelain was discovered in Europe (by Bottger, in 1710 , for the Meissen Porcelain factory), it was no longer necessary to temper the cups. Hence, it makes more sense to add milk after the tea has brewed. As we are all aware, the correct brewing of tea cannot be judged by its color, therefore milk after is a wiser choice, but either choice is correct.
Note: China did have hard paste porcelain before Europe. However, they did not use milk in their tea, as the blends were white, oolong, and green. The reason the West calls porcelain "china" is because China was the country of origin for hard paste porcelain.
When in doubt, use the utensils from the outside towards the inside of the place setting.
A petit knife and fork may be used together for use on an open face sandwich, preferably not on a closed sandwich. If savories are properly made, nothing will be dripping or gooey. However, with the fun of non-traditional foods now served on Afternoon Tea menus, this is not always the case. A petit knife and fork is proper for use with one’s pastries.
Never place used utensils on a cloth or table. When not in use rest the utensil on the right side of the corresponding plate.
Sugar Tongs (3 1/4 inch to 6 1/2 inch):
Please do not refer to your afternoon tea as a high tea. Remember, a high tea is served in the late afternoon or early evening (5 PM to 7 PM), taking the place of dinner. Served at a “high” table with seated place settings. The foods are heartier and consist of salads, one or two hot dishes, pot pies, cold chicken, sliced meats, cakes, fruit tarts, custards, and fresh fruits. The tea may be served hot or iced. The addition of any supper dish would be appropriate.
A lemon slice can float in the tea cup. Traditionally, the lemon slice would also contain a clove in the center of the lemon slice. The floating lemon slice continues to enhance the flavor of the tea.
If one is serving a wedge of lemon, traditionally the wedge is covered in gauze or tied in a cheesecloth. This is to avoid the seeds and juice from squirting when squeezed.
If one does not have a lemon press or squeezer, it is proper to use your fingers to gently squeeze the juice of the wedge into your tea cup and then place the used wedge on either the side of your tea saucer or any service plate provided on the table.
All tea blends are created from the Camellia sinensis plant. The only difference is in the fermenting-oxidation process, which cause the enzyme changes. While fermented is the customary term used, it is actually oxidation, not fermentation that is occurring.
Green = unoxidized -
It has been reported, drinking only two cups of tea per day reduces the rate of heart disease & blood pressure, inhibits the production of platelets leading to blood clots and the growth of tumors. The natural fluorides help to prevent tooth decay. Best of all, while not proven, it has been reported that tea drinking helps to stimulate the decrease in excess body fat!
Note: tea does not cure disease. Always check with your doctor before beginning any health program.
1. Does one drink tea or take tea?
2. Why is the shape of a teapot different from a coffee or chocolate pot?
3. What is the correct placement of the teapot on the table?
4. Are tea urns used for brewing or infusing tea?
5. How does a teacup differ from a coffee or chocolate cup?
6. What is a moustache cup?
7. Why in older pictures of tea settings are spoons placed across the top of a teacup?
8. When drinking tea does one lift the teacup and saucer or just the teacup?
9. What is a tea plate?
10. Where does the expression ”not my cup of tea” come from?
11. How is a traditional English trifle made?
12. What are the proper protocols for wearing gloves at an afternoon tea?
13. Is it improper to turn over the China or tea wears to see where they were manufactured?
14. Is it OK to set a table with the teacup turned upside down inside the saucer?
15. Who pours the first cup of tea?
16. What do I do with my tea bag once the tea is brewed?
17. What is the difference between Clotted Cream and Devon Cream?
18. What do I do with my iced teaspoon if no saucer has been placed under the glass?
Rules, rules, and more rules - the best
etiquette of all is to relax and have a good time without noticing the Faux Pas of others!
What's Cooking America© copyright 2004 by Linda Stradley - United States Copyright TX 5-900-517- All rights reserved. -