There is something very special about sharing a cup of tea with someone. Let me say that I mean in the proper British way of sharing a cuppa tea. First let me give you a brief history lesson on the tradition of having tea. At one time in the UK, there was a High Tea and and Afternoon Tea. The difference was that the High Tea was usually a mug of tea for the working classes who did not get home from work until 6:00 p.m. They were famished. It was served with bread, vegetables, cheese, and occasionally meat. High tea was usually served at a dining table. This was very common in the industrial areas of the UK, and became known as "tea time."
In comparison, Afternoon Tea was more of a social event for the upper classes, however it was a bridge between meals because they usually did not eat dinner until 8 p.m. It became a mini meal in itself. This tea time was usually taken while sitting in low comfortable chairs or sofas. The upper class soon developed their own High Tea that became a meal that they could prepare themselves when their servants were away. Usually it consisted of veal, salmon, pigeon and fruits, along with the biscuits and cheese.
For the most part, now it is called "tea time" and happens at 4 p.m. It is a bit more simple, consisting of a cup of tea and perhaps a biscuit or scone. There are restaurants in the UK where the name High Tea is still used to advertise the venue of an Afternoon Tea, basically because there is a large population of overseas customers who wish to experience the tradition.
There most definitely is an etiquette to follow if you are out for High Tea or Afternoon Tea. The dress code is not formal, however, it is a relaxed smart casual dress. No need for jackets or ties for men. Trousers or very smart jeans with a collared shirt is fine. For women, it is the perfect excuse to get dressed up.
Are you aware that there is a history of the simple addition of adding cream to your cup of tea? The upper class had very delicate porcelain china teacups. They added their cream first so that the boiling hot water would not crack the china. The servants had older china or mugs so that their cream was put in after the tea was poured. In today's times, the restaurants pour your first cup of tea and allow you to add your own cream afterwards.
Pinkys up? Not necessary. Looks rather silly, if you ask me, just as if you picked up a delicate china tea cup and grasped it in the palm of your hand. Just as there are no hard and fast rules about whether to put the jam or the cream on your scone first or how you actually go about to properly eat a scone. Really it boils down to which is more comfortable for you without having a mishap. The only real big no-no is to please not dunk your scone or biscuit in your tea. Heavens forbid, ya'll, I can see that happening.
This blog was written because for the first time, my husband and I will be going to The Peabody for Afternoon Tea in their Chez Philippe Restaurant. I know that it will be an atmosphere of grace and elegance. The Peabody from top to bottom is the epitome of southern hospitality and tradition. It will be grand to see the Lobby decorated with the 30 foot Christmas tree, along with all of the other decorations, including the ducks swimming in their fountain right in the middle of it all. I have been told that all of the servers are top trained professionals, but to ask if Evan has a table available. We really are looking forward to that because the most important thing to remember is that Afternoon Tea is meant to be fun and to enjoy.
I do know that I adore it when my British husband asks me in the afternoon if I would fancy a cup of tea. It makes it tastes even better along with that British accent.