High Tea Etiquette

Apr 5th, 2000, 03:08 PM
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High Tea Etiquette

I hate to sound stupid and typically
American, but what is the etiquette for
tea. We are planning tea at Claridge's. I
have heard that you DO NOT have tea black
as it is not done and not to be simple but
after you have your scones do you politely
leave or sit and drink and eat more? I
realize this is not a buffet, but what is
the proper procedure?

Apr 5th, 2000, 10:15 PM
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I'm not getting into these ridiculous rituals; standard revolting Scot response, however:-

You are talking about afternoon tea. High tea is what we used to have in Scotland for our evening meal, and is a whole different experience
Apr 5th, 2000, 11:56 PM
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Okay I'm an American married to a Englishman, and I too was completely baffled by all the little nuances and rules of etiquette when I was first thrown into all these new peculiar traditions. Basically, I've found that even though most Brits drink milk in their tea (I don't) no one will bat an eye if you don't (but beware-the tea will be very strong!). People linger for hours at tea, especially if it is a "formal" place. You're paying more for ambiance then the actual food, just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. And don't be afraid to be liberal with the clotted cream.

Also what I understand from my husband is that High Tea is little cucumber sandwiches and scones, more of an array of cakes, while Afternoon Tea is just tea (or whatever drink you want, you CAN have a soda, coffee, they will be made available-though I alway prefer to have tea-I feel very British this way) and scones/biscuits. Perhaps someone else can clarify this?

Anyway enjoy yourself. I had fun with this thread and have found Tea Time one of my favorite things about England.
Apr 6th, 2000, 12:19 AM
Nigel Doran
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Take your tea sky-blue pink with a yellow border if you wish. Everyone knows that it is a bourgeois conceit to adhere to so-called rules of etiquette.
I agree with the writer who said that you pay for the atmosphere; stay for the whole afternoon! If the black tea is too strong, simply add the hot water that ought to be provided in a separate pot. If it isn't, ask for it.
By the way, tea does have different meanings for different people in different areas. In the north of England, for example, tea is a term that refers to the evening meal, which is eaten before 6 pm. In the past, this tea was something like bread, eggs, cheese and ham. Nowadays it can be whatever you want.
Apr 6th, 2000, 04:18 AM
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It has been my experience that in London, what you go to have at Claridges and such places in "afternoon tea", not "high tea" which is still thought of as an early evening meal after work. We call it "afternoon tea" even in British-oriented hotels and fancy places in New York as well.
When I have had afternoon tea, I have been offered sandwiches, then scones with cream and jam, then cakes or cookiues, all with as much tea as I want. Some places offer afternoon tea a la carte where you pick and choose; others offer all the "courses" at a fixed price. Some places will offer you seconds on sandwiches and scones; others will not. There are always refills of the tea. And I have never had a problem having my tea with lemon; usually the lemon is offered.
Apr 10th, 2000, 02:07 PM
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Dear marlo,
I used to visit Claridges with my father & still regulary call into Claridges for afternoon tea when I pop into London. Please do not feel so restricted by 'tradition / etiquette ' you are meant to enjoy the embiance, not worry about whether you are holding the china cup correctly. We tend to drink tea with milk but there is certainly no rule. The tea is usually stronger than that available in the US although can be weakened by either milk or water depending on taste. The tea pot is then refilled by a smaller pot containing hot water. Scones / cakes are served with afternoon tea & depending on which day you visit a quartet plays. Casual smart clothes are the order of the day but the main idea is to relax & watch the world go by, so don't rush anywhere. Have a great time in the UK & don't concern yourself with ritual. All you will need is an eccentric warped sense of humour & an unberella.
Apr 10th, 2000, 02:53 PM
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Just the topic I was looking for!
I just returned from London last week and experienced afternoon tea for the first time. What a wonderful tradition, one I wish we (Americans) would mimmick. We actually did tea three afternoons, twice at Fortnum & Mason and once at Harrods. I can't believe it took me this long to discover clotted cream! What an incredible treat. Okay, now on the the actual subject. We felt no pressure to drink our tea (or hot chocolate in my case) in any certain way. I think you are free to make the experience fit your own personal style. If you want to dress it up, you can. If you don't, then no one really cares. I loved it. It was very relaxing and gave me time to take in the surroundings and just do a little "people watching". The service at both places was excellent. Although, I have to say that Harrods service was a little bit better, but the scones and clotted cream at Fortnum & Mason was better. I am having serious withdrawl and am looking for a source of scones and clotted cream somewhere close to home (Chicago). If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them! The moral of this story: Make the experience what YOU want it to be. Don't waste your time worrying about what everyone else expects.
Apr 11th, 2000, 04:42 AM
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Dear Beth
I live in NYC and we have at least two stores that sell British food items.
One is called Tea and Sympathy and the other is Myles of Keswick. If you check telephone info for the 212 area code, you should find both. Perhaps they can advise you on shipping goods to you.
Clotted cream is a refigerated item of course, I'm not sure they carry it, but it does exist in the US (I've bought it) and perhaps they can tell you the brand name so you can order from the manufacturer or from a store closer to Chicago.
Apr 11th, 2000, 06:01 AM
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I have a good recipe for scones I'll be glad to share if you want to e-mail me directly. You can purchase clotted cream and many other British food products at a site called britishexpress.com
Apr 11th, 2000, 08:39 AM
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Scones are actually quite easy to make--a bit like our shortcakes for strawberry shortcakes. There are even companies that sell scone mix. I've never been happy with buying premade scones in a store. In Chicago, our former home, I'd bet that Treasure Island or Stop and Shop carry clotted cream. You'll need a top quality strawberry jam as well. Yum!
Apr 11th, 2000, 09:11 AM
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carolyn gave a good tip about the website, I had forgotten about it.
Here's another one that offers British food items
Apr 11th, 2000, 03:25 PM
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Thanks for all the replies!! I don't know where to start. I'll let you know if I'm able to satisfy the craving.
Apr 11th, 2000, 06:50 PM
Al Godon
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Here are some etiquette rules for snob tea sessions:
1. Don't wipe your mouth with the back of your hand or your sleeve.
2. Don't audibly slirp your tea.
3. No belching, burping, or other gastro-intestinal sounds.
4. If the tea is too hot, don't saucer and blow it and then pour it back in your cup.
5. If you do saucer it, don't drink it out of the saucer.
6. Eat your scone so that the crumbs don't go everywhere.
7. Point your little finger at the correct angle just before you slirp your tea.
8. If there is a cloth wrapped around the tea pot, called a tea cozy, don't use it to wipe your hands, nose or your mouth.
9. Be sure to make "OOHH" and "AHHH" sounds over the fragrance, body, boldness, sharpness, quality, etc. of the tea even if tastes like old dishwater.
10. Don't dunk your scone or other little treats in the tea before eating them. I don't care how dry and crumbly the scones might be, dunking is uncouth.
11. Don't smoke big cigars at the tea table. Some people claim it spoils the taste of the tea.
12. After stirring in your clotted whatever, don't slirp tea from your spoon to test the flavor. Sip gently in a refined manner.
13. If you run out of tea, don't bang your cup on the table to signal for more. Discreetly signal the waiter/waitress with a small motion of your left forefinger. (Use of the middle finger has no status in refined tea emporiums. It just isn't done.)
14. If you wish to add brandy or liquids of high alcoholic content to your tea, do it discreetly from a small flask. Don't haul out a liter bottle and start wholesale pouring.

Apr 12th, 2000, 06:39 AM
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Now maybe someone can explain the strange practice that I met with during many afternoon teas that I enjoyed while I was living in New Zealand -- putting the "milk in first" before pouring the tea into the cup. What's that all about?
Apr 12th, 2000, 07:00 AM
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it keeps you from overflowing the cup by putting in too much tea followed by too much milk
It also warms the milk as the tea pours in on top
Apr 12th, 2000, 07:11 AM
Beth Anderson
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Hi Emily,

re: your question about "milk in first". For what it is worth, the Washington Post food section recently had an article on "proper British tea". They included instructions on how to make "proper British tea" from scratch, using the right leaves (PG Tips, for one), teapot, cosy, etc. One thing they mentioned was putting the milk in first. (which I always do anyway - mainly to get the sugar started on melting). another thing they mention is "always warm the pot" - does anyone know why this is?

anyway, NZ was a British colony, so they must have transplanted this custom...

hope that helps.

Apr 12th, 2000, 07:28 AM
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From my Irish grandmother:

Milk goes in first; the hot tea mixes in with the milk better than the other way around, and there's less stirring so you don't make a big mess in your saucer (ok I was six, so she had a point).

Warm the pot: china, porcelain and earthenware are cold out of the cupboard; if you pour the hot water (not BOILING, by the way) in, you'll get cool tea. Soooo, you pour hot water into the pot, swirl it around so the material is warm, dump out the water, add your tea leaves, THEN pour in the hot water to steep the tea. Perfect temperature. If you remember that most homes years ago - and even some today - were only about 55 degrees Farenheit, you can see why the teapots weren't exactly warm to the touch.
Apr 12th, 2000, 07:29 AM
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I think that the *original* logic behind both milk in first and warming the pot was that the shock of boiling water unmitigated by prewarming or mixng with cold milk could actually crack fine bone china. I don't know how fine or bone the china usually used (at home or out) today is, so it may just be a tradition now.
Apr 12th, 2000, 07:52 AM
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This is interesting. According to Miss Manners, putting the milk in first is a sign of not being upper class, as only governesses and nurserymaids put the milk in first. The reason being (according to her) that the nursery tea was sent up with the milk already in the cup, instead of in a separate pitcher. In fact, she claims that there is an expression "she's rather milk in first" which implies that someone has married above their station. Anyone else ever heard of this?
Apr 12th, 2000, 09:05 AM
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Miss Manners is talking bollocks (ref. BritSpeak thread!) - besides warming the pot and the mugs (if you're not using teacups) to keep the tea warmer, longer, a quick swish of hot water also gets rid of any dishwashing liquid residue . . . *really* nasty in tea.

BTW, nobody here extends their pinkie fingers - talk about the height of mincing pretention!
Have fun!

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