A Family of Three at Tea, 1727
Attributed to Johann Zoffany (German-born British painter, 1733-1810)
Tea is served usually at four o’clock, but sometimes between two and five o’clock.There are several types of teas:
Elevensies – morning coffee hour
Cream Tea – simple tea served with scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd
Low Tea or Afternoon Tea (got its name because guests sat on low armchairs next to low side-tables) – various sweet teas served with tiny sandwiches (savones), scones, and pastries with clotted cream, and curd
Royal Tea – begins with champagne and ends with sherry
High Tea (also known as Meat Tea) – served around six o’clock in the evening and includes meat and potatoes, various other foods. Was for the working class, but also was usually served for the upper classes on Sundays to give servants time off from having to cook an evening meal.
Stainless steel wire mesh infusers or tea balls
Mote spoon (slotted spoon for straining stray tea leaves)
Caddy spoon (short spoon used to measure out the tea leaves)
Creamer for milk
Pitcher of hot water (for those who prefer weak tea)
Plate for lemon slices Plates and forks, if serving cake
Knives or butter spreaders if serving jam
Napkins (Napkins have an etiquette of their own. Fold large napkins in half with the fold facing the body, but open completely smaller tea napkins. When leaving the table temporarily, place your napkin on your chair, not on the table. At the end of the tea, pick up the napkin by the center and place it to the left of the plate.)
Proper way to hold a tea cup and saucer:
Place the saucer in the palm of your left hand and move it forward to rest on the four fingers, which are slightly spread apart. Steady the saucer with your thumb on the rim. Hold the cup by placing your index finger through the handle and grip the handle with your thumb, and, for added support, place a second finger below the handle. Curve the next two fingers around the bowl. Don’t raise the pinky finger, even the slightest little bit, which would be a no-no.
Susan F. Craft is the author of the SIBA award-winning Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile.