Tea Time For The Novice
Let’s talk about Tea shall we? What comes to your mind when you first hear the words high tea? Fancy china, delicate pastries, decadent cakes and an ambience worthy of the Queen of England? If you hold your own tea party at home with tea freshly brewed from your electric kettle would you consider that high tea? Well, let us dispel the notion that high tea is some exclusive get-together for the rich and famous, because high tea is most certainly not a practice reserved for nobility. The term high tea may very well have its roots in England, so it would only make sense for us to examine how the Brits actually use the term today. We will soon find out that the term high tea is rather ordinary in nature; in fact, the term low tea more appropriately describes how we Americans view the whole tea experience.
High v Low Tea
In England high tea or meat tea actually refers to a heavier meal and is sometimes equated with dinner. Low tea on the other hand refers to afternoon tea and is typically served in a sitting room or a more relaxed environment with low coffee tables and large sofas, wing chairs and other seating arrangements that one would not associate with a formal dining experience. Traditionally tea time started at around 4 in the afternoon and pretty much wrapped up after six in the evening. What you'll find in England is the Tea Rooms will usually serve tea as early as three in the afternoon and no later than five. Afternoon tea or low tea, usually come in one of three flavors: cream tea, light tea, and full tea. There is little difference between green tea and light tea; however, full tea is what you want. In addition to tea, scones, savories and sweets, with full tea you get dessert. I’m pretty sure you all know what desserts and sweets are, so we won't try to define that here, but for those wondering what a scone is, they are basically pastries with jam and sometimes cream. Savories are simply tiny sandwiches or other finger foods – basically appetizers.
Tea Ettiquette 101
So should you find yourself in a tea party of sorts, here are a few tips on tea etiquette. If you want do it right, and by right I mean in the traditional sense because basically I'm not too much of a conformist and tend to do things from a practical perspective, but that's just me and I digress so back to the topic at hand – if you want to do it right don't grab the tea cup the way you would grab a fresh brew from Starbucks. The teacup comes with a handle, so use it. You are going to find that the handle is not the same kind of handle that you have attached to your big hot chocolate mug at home, so don't try to manhandle it. Use your fingers and used the pinky for balance I guess the way a velociraptor uses its tail for balance but make sure you are more graceful than the raptor when you handle your teacup. Whatever you do, refrain from looping your fingers through the handle and never hold the teacup with the palm of your hand the way you would a miso soup bowl.
Tea etiquette also mandates that you not stir your tea wildly in circular motions. Instead, use your teaspoon and gently sweep upwards starting from your six o'clock position straight up to 12 o'clock. Two or three strokes is enough. Remember it's all about grace and if you furiously paddle at your tea, your companions may not look upon this display with approval. Once you're done with your teaspoon, take it out off the cup. Put it on the saucer – it is there for a reason. Do take a sip from your teacup but just like the teaspoon, when you have taken a sip or two put it back on the saucer. This is not a beer can, so don't wave it around wildly or make gestures with it.
Electric Kettle Cordless at home
If you're ever invited to a tea party and you want to practice your tea drinking skills ahead of time, you may want to go and get an electric kettle cordless appliance and start brewing your own tea and get familiar with all of its accompaniments. Milk is usually served with tea, never cream. Lemon slices are also served with tea, but when you do so make sure that they are slices and not wedges; after all, this is tea and not a Corona. One final thought: milk and lemon do not mix – don't try that combination on your tea, but if you must because you're the type that when someone says no your gun to do it anyway just to find out, do it at home. Doing so in the company of others will only underscore your naïveté.
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