This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a “Sip and See Afternoon Tea in Honor of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.” Mom and her two daughters were hosts of the tea to bring friends and family together before the start of a new school year. My girlfriend is somewhat of a Royal “admirer,” and has a home that naturally lent itself to such a lovely occasion. Her husband was a very good sport and served as the afternoon butler. (Should he ever decide that engineering isn’t “his cup of tea,” he certainly has an opportunity in the hospitality industry!)
The most beautiful part of the “Sip and See,” besides the gorgeous tea table, the elegant appointments at every turn, and the fabulous goody bags resting in a vintage baby rocker and baby carriage as you walk out the door, was the effort by her two young teens to host a community service event that supports a local nonprofit, Respite Care of San Antonio. This particular organization provides services to enhance the stability and the nurturing opportunities of families caring for a loved one with a developmental disability, to strengthen and stabilize families, prevent potential child abuse, and prevent or delay institutionalization. The two teens collected diapers for the young children staying in the facility. What a fun way to start off the school year while doing something positive for local children in need!
In honor of the Afternoon Tea, I’m offering a few tea party etiquette tidbits for those motivated to have their own tea party. For more Tea Etiquette info, visit my previous blog posts, Celebrating Mother’s Day with an Afternoon Tea and The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea. Let the tea pouring begin…
The Unspoken Rules of the Tea Table
Keep tea conversation as sweet as a chocolate kiss. Refrain from vulgar gossip or “one-up-man-ship.” It’s not lady like, nor is it polite to speak unkindly about another person, or fellow guest. Practice the art of mannerly, uplifting conversation that makes the tea experience enjoyable.
Finger food may be eaten with your fingers. It’s not necessary to attempt to cut a piece of food that is meant to be eaten with your index finger and thumb. Feel free to pick up the scone, tea sandwich or finger pastry. Eat and enjoy…just don’t lick your fingers!
Utilize the tiny sugar tongs. The tea table will likely have specific serving utensils for each plate of food. They can be as fancy as a petit four server to a simple knife and fork. Follow the host’s lead and use the utensil designated for each serving. Be careful not to substitute serving utensils, as it could create a problem for those with food allergies.
Turn your cell phone off and don’t even think about receiving a call or text during the tea party. An afternoon tea is a gentle reminder of a more relaxed time. Put your cell phone or tablet in your purse and enjoy the tea party. If you are expecting an important call, check your phone away from fellow guests and excuse yourself to a private place to make, or receive, your call.
If you do not see it on the tea table, don’t ask. You may want to add a little more salt to a pasta dish, or some ketchup to your tea sandwich. (Ghastly!) Please don’t insult your host by requesting anything other than what is already sitting on the tea table. If she is offering tea and punch, but you would prefer a Diet Coke, stop off at your local gas station and fill up on soda after leaving the tea party.
Despite what your grandma may have taught you, a raised pinkie finger is not a sign of good breeding. Sip your tea with your pinkie down. And, while you are at it, take off your grandmother’s gloves if you are shaking hands or going through the buffet line.
Loose tea leaves are nice but not necessary. If you are hosting a tea and deciding between tea bags or tea leaves, either will suffice. For large events, it’s easier to make a pot of tea and drop tea leaves (or a few tea bags) in the tea pot, rather than having everyone make their own. A cold punch is always a welcome addition.
Dab your lips before taking a sip of tea. Pat your lips with a tissue before taking a sip from a delicate tea cup or water. It’s unappetizing to glance across the table at a lipstick stained drinking vessel.
Don’t forget the hostess gift. If you had the pleasure of being invited to an Afternoon Tea, show your appreciation with a small hostess gift. There are countless gift ideas with tea as the theme…everything from an Afternoon Tea book (such as The New Tea Companion), a subscription to Tea Time Magazine, or a tasty loose leaf tea from Teavana.
Enjoy your tea!