Steeped in Tradition – Tea Etiquette Yesterday and Today

What is etiquette?  Simply put, etiquette is the conventional requirements as to social behavior.  Today, we enjoy a much more relaxed atmosphere when we offer our guest the hospitality of our homes.  But not too long ago, even as little as 50 years ago, social manners were paramount and the young ladies of the day were expected to learn ‘what is proper’.

Please take a few moments out of your busy day to brew a cup of tea and watch these vintage Afternoon Tea films.  They certainly illustrate how far things have changed! Get cosy in your living room at home, Britannia hotel rooms, or wherever you may be and enjoy your favourite blend. Tea is a wonderful beverage. It can calm, energize, soothe, comfort-- and it tastes delicious. There are so many kinds to try. You can discover new teas throughout your life. Enjoy.

Click on the link below to start playing the Film. Press the Back button on your browser to go back to the Invitation To Tea Site;

Arranging the Tea Table Video

Tea Q&A

As the tea party tradition enjoys a revival, the question often arises about the ‘rules’ of the tea party.  Common courtesy and kindness are always proper, but for those interested in a few more specifics, below are some of the most common questions.


When drinking tea does one lift the teacup alone or the teacup and saucer?


If seated at a table, raise the teacup alone for a sip, then place it back into the saucer in between sips. In a buffet tea setting, keep the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand.


What about wearing gloves to tea?


When greeting another, remove the glove from the right hand, place the removed glove in your left hand and shake hands skin to skin. When dining, remove the gloves before sitting down to dine.  Long formal gloves usually have wrist buttons.  Unbutton your glove and remove your fingers and hand and fold the glove back. 


How do I serve lemon for the tea?


Ensure lemon is cut into slices, not wedges.  Place a slice of lemon in the bottom of the cup and then add the tea.  When obtaining another cup of tea, remove the spent lemon slice and add a new one.  And of course, never add milk to a teacup that has lemon!


What is High Tea?


High tea is not a ‘better class’ of tea nor does it denote a better class of guest!  High tea and low tea actually refer to the height of the tea table.  High tea was traditionally enjoyed by the working class around the dining or kitchen table and served much heartier fare.   In essence, high tea was dinner.  Low tea, however, was enjoyed by the leisure class at a low table in the parlour where light refreshment were served.


Is it proper to raise the pinky of the hand holding the teacup when taking a sip?


All the fingers should be curled under when enjoying a sip of tea.


I have attended a buffet tea in the past and was not sure in which order I should eat the food.  Is there an order?


Yes, there is.  As tea party foods are usually served bit size, its ok to user your fingers.  Start with the savouries and sandwiches then move to the scones and finally the sweets.


What do I do with my teaspoon?


After quietly stirring your tea, remove the spoon and place it on the saucer.

Tea Recipes

Cucumber Tea Sandwich

1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely chopped watercress leaves
16 slices best-quality white bread
Salt to taste
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
Place cucumber slices between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
In a small bowl, combine butter and watercress; spread on one side of each slice of bread. Lay cucumber slices onto the buttered side of 8 slices of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Cover each with 1 tablespoon alfalfa sprouts and top with the remaining slices of bread, buttered side down.

Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then cut in half again. Keep under a damp paper towel in the fridge until serving time.

Simple Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup raisins (or dried currants)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in raisins.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

How to Brew a Perfect Pot of Tea

Start with the best quality loose leaf tea you can find. It really does make a difference!
Use a teapot dedicated to tea only.  Using the same for coffee will taint the taste of the tea.

Fill the kettle with fresh cold water and set it to boil.
Fill your teapot with hot water in order to warm it.

Just as the kettle comes to the boil, dump out the warming water and add your tea.  The traditional measure is 1 teaspoon per cup and 1 for the pot.  Bring the teapot to the kettle and pour in your water.  Let steep 3-5 minutes. 


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