Since the Victorian and Edwardian era in the United Kingdom when daily tea was the feature of the day, lavish hats and elegant dresses were the expected attire and tea etiquette was of the utmost importance. Flash forward over a hundred years and tea remains a favourable drink of choice at social events and integral to the daily routine of many in South Africa.
Nora Frey of Chaplon Tea South Africa, an exclusive tea range which recently launched in South Africa, shares some top tips on how to host the perfect afternoon tea party.
According to Frey, today, even though people no longer go to such extremes to host tea parties, tea still takes centre stage at parties, and has been categorised as the following:
– Cream tea party consisting of scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd and tea;
– An Afternoon Tea is an afternoon meal including sandwiches,scones, clotted cream, marmalade, 2-3 sweets and tea;
– A High Tea includes a hot dish followed by sweet treats; and
– Royal tea is a social tea served with champagne at the beginning or sherry at the end of the tea.
“No matter what the occasion, the key ingredient to any tea party is to serve high quality tea to guests. The better the quality of the tea, the better the party. A good quality tea produces a fresher and fuller bodied flavour and adds significantly to the experience.”
Frey says that in order to ensure that guests experience the desired flavour of the tea, the host must be sure to pair the tea up with snacks which complement the tea, be it small cucumber sandwiches, cakes, biscuits or scones (see below suggested milktart and shortbread recipes to accompany Chaplon Tea).
She says to produce the perfect cup of tea be sure to follow these golden rules:
– Always use fresh cold water in the kettle as this helps the tea flavours to develop – The best results are achieved with soft water with a low Calcium content;
– The teapot must always be clean;
– Swirl a bit of boiling water in the teapot to warm it up;
– For black tea use water as it reaches boiling point;
– For green tea allow water to cool for five minute and then pour over tea to ensure that no bitter taste is produced; and
– Allow your tea to brew for 3 minutes.
– Take out the leaves once finished brewing.
“Today tea is affordable and easily accessible to all consumers who are able to purchase tea either online or at a store nearby. This however was not the case when tea was once a luxury product which only the very wealthy could afford.”
THE TEA LEGEND
As legend has it, the original tea party began as an “Afternoon Tea” by royal Britain’s Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, during the Industrial Revolution when dinner became the main meal of the day in place of lunch. The Duchess would call on her maid to bring her a cup of tea and a snack before dinner – using prestigious porcelain china, silver and bone cups and saucers, material napkins and tables decorated with flowers – and eventually developed into a daily feature where guests were invited to join. Soon guests began to throw their own tea parties. However, over time, the formalities of the tea party age died down.
TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE TIPS TO REMEMBER:
– Always use your thumb, index and middle finger to hold your teacup. There is no need to stick your ‘pinky’ out as this is an exaggeration of what people sometimes do to balance the cup;
– Place the napkin on your lap and if you must leave the table temporarily, place the napkin on chair;
– Be sure not to add lemon if you are adding milk as this may cause the milk to curdle;
– Never blow on your tea if it is too hot as this is impolite and always take small, quiet sips;
– Place your tea on your saucer when you are not drinking; and
– It is acceptable to eat most of the food with your fingers by taking small bites but use a fork when eating messy foods.
Today, elegant hotels across the world offer Afternoon Tea and High Tea for guests to enjoy.