During some searching, I came across fun and fascinating information regarding how the tradition of afternoon tea came to be. According to “A Social History of Tea” by Jane Pettigrew:
‘Tea was generally consumed within a lady’s closet or bedchamber and for a mainly female gathering. The tea itself and the delicate pieces of porcelain for brewing and drinking it were displayed in the closet, and inventories for wealthy households during the 17th and 18th centuries list tea equipage not in kitchens or dining rooms but in these small private closets or boudoirs.”
While drinking tea as a fashionable event is credited to Catharine of Braganza, the actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a new social event some time in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. Jane Austen hints of afternoon tea as early as 1804 in an unfinished novel. It is said that the afternoon tea tradition was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. She requested light sandwiches be brought to her in the late afternoon because she had a ‘sinking feeling’ during that time because of the long gap between meals. She began to invite others to join her and thus became the tradition.
What I found even more interesting is that, according to ‘proper tea etiquette,’ it is not correct to put your pinky finger up when sipping tea. “A
So here’s a spot of other teatime tips….
When attending a tea party:
Always begin with a greeting and/or handshake.
After sitting down, put your purse on your lap or behind you against the chair back.
Napkin placement — unfold napkin on your lap. If you must leave, temporarily place napkin on chair.
Sugar/lemon — sugar is placed in cup first, then thinly sliced lemon; but never milk and lemon together. Although highly debated, milk goes in after tea, according to the Washington School of Protocol. The habit of putting milk in tea came from the French. “To put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love, perhaps never to marry.” (Tea superstition)
The correct order when eating on a tea tray is to eat savories first, scones next and sweets last. However, many have changed the order somewhat. Many like their guests to eat the scones first while they are hot, then move to savories, then sweets.
Scones — split horizontally with knife, curd and cream is placed on plate. Use the knife to put cream/curd on each bite. Eat with fingers neatly.
Proper placement of spoon: the spoon always goes behind cup. Also, don’t leave the spoon in the cup. (Gasp!!)