Traditional English tea party.
The English tea ceremony evolved from the English tradition of afternoon tea, known as Afternoon Tea or Five-o-clock Tea. It is held, of course, in the evening. In modern England, all the rules of the tea ceremony are observed, perhaps, only in a few decent tea shops — the increased pace of life has almost completely banished this event from both families and mass catering establishments.
To conduct an English tea ceremony, you need a certain way of serving a tea table, tea, snacks for tea and the ability to manage tea in the process of drinking. Let’s deal with everything in order.
It is easier and more convenient to organize a table for a tea reception in the dining room (meaning, of course, a special room, and not a catering establishment). However, this is not necessary, and not everyone has this opportunity. The main requirement for the room in which the tea table will be served is the spaciousness around this table. The fact is that a tea party often involves the free movement of guests around the room — and it is better not to start it in a tight space. The situation in which a person, getting up from the table, touches it and everyone spills tea poured into cups, is known to everyone. And, of course, it is unacceptable.
The tea reception implies the independence of the guests — the hostess only pours tea, there is no change of dishes. The hostess should have two teapots at hand, so that you can brew fresh tea on the arrival of new guests.
Cups and saucers are placed in front of the hostess of the reception or another woman who will pour the tea. To the left of the tray, if the hostess is right-handed, and vice versa.
A plain tablecloth is appropriate on the table. It is also acceptable with a small and not very bright pattern. White or blue (white is better). One-time delivery is not prohibited. But best of all-linen. The tablecloth can either only cover the table, or hang from it for about fifteen centimeters. A table with a transparent top can not be covered.
Today, the cup and saucer act as a “single” serving item, the two parts of which can not be separated. For a classic European tea party, bowls are not suitable. It is curious that the idea to attach the handle to the bowl, and thus make it a familiar cup, belongs to the British. At the beginning of the XVIII century, Chinese porcelain manufacturers commissioned by the British began to make cups with a handle. A little later, the fastidious English demanded to make a saucer for each cup, so that hot drops of tea did not drip on the knees and tablecloth.
In addition to the tea pair, each guest is entitled to a personal plate for sweets — a small plate with a diameter of 17-18 cm. It is designed for cakes, cookies,pieces of cake, etc.
The classic English tea set has more than thirty items. The porcelain set includes 12 cups and saucers, a jug for milk, a bowl for sugar, a bowl for jam, a tray for spoons, a teapot, a stand for it, a tin can for storing and measuring tea, a jug or kettle for boiling water, a plate for cupcakes or sandwiches and a plate for lemon.
Unlike the flattened Oriental and pot-bellied Russian teapots, the English tea ware is dominated by elongated shapes, and the cups stand on a short leg at the base. The silver metal tea set is a set of a teapot, a kettle for boiling water, a jug for milk and a tray on which they all fit. Teaspoons, tongs, napkins, strainers, tablecloths are usually not included in the tea set.
You will also need: a small vase with flowers (preferably with live ones and white), a knife and fork for each guest, a strainer and a stand for the strainer, a quilted or woolen cover for the teapot-it is called “tea-cosy”.
Plates for cakes and cakes are placed on the table so that their edge coincides with the edge of the table. Do not forget to put napkins under each plate or put them on the table in a napkin holder.
The cups are placed to the right of the plates and slightly obliquely. A teaspoon is placed on the saucer or to the right of it. A spoon or fork for cakes is placed on the right side of the cake plate, between the plate and the cup.
For fruit cakes, a special spatula is provided, for dry cakes-tongs. A sugar spoon or tongs for crushed sugar are usually in the sugar bowl.
Usually, guests are offered to choose from 5-10 varieties of tea. Which necessarily includes Earl Grey, Assam, Darjeeling and various mixtures, of course.
The main rule of any official tea party: tea in the cups of guests should be poured directly at the table. The host or waiter pours tea, approaching each of the people sitting on the right side. It is not customary to serve tea leaves and boiling water separately; they are pre-mixed in a ratio of 1:2 and served in a large porcelain teapot from the same tea set as the rest of the dishes.
Tea is poured into cups at the rate of 1 cm to the edge, and in the case when they are going to drink tea with milk — 1.5 cm.
So, the tea is poured. Before you put the lemon in the cup, and then the sugar (in this order!), the cup should be rotated 180 degrees — so that the handle is on the left.
Now you can put a circle of lemon in a cup and squeeze the juice out of it. To do this, with the back of a teaspoon, it is “adjusted” to the near wall of the cup and squeezed out, holding the handle of the cup firmly with your left hand. The squeezed lemon must be removed from the cup and put on a saucer.
Sugar is poured into the cup from the sugar bowl with a common-use spoon — so that it does not touch the tea: otherwise, the spoon will get wet and the drops, once in the sugar, form lumps. Mix the sugar in a cup with a personal teaspoon, trying to do it silently. Drinking tea with a spoon left in the cup is considered bad form. Therefore, after stirring the sugar, it should be removed from the cup and put on a saucer. Before you start drinking, turn the cup again — so that the handle is on the right.
You can not pass your index finger through the ear of the cup and” coquettishly ” set aside the little finger. Hold the cup with three fingers of the right hand (left-handed-left): thumb, index finger, and middle finger. The pads of the thumb and index finger hold the upper part of the handle, the slightly bent middle finger is under the handle, the little finger and ring finger are pressed to the middle of the palm.
If you drink tea at the dinner table, you need to lift only the cup, leaving the saucer on the table. In the same case, when tea is served on a low table, and the guests are sitting in armchairs or on the sofa, the tea couple is taken in their hands and drink tea, lifting the cup from the saucer, which is held at chest level.
English tea pastries, on the one hand, do not represent anything supernatural. You can also bake it here — you only need to get the recipes (see the section “Kitchen”). One requirement: snacks should be simple. Because if the pastry is very fancy, it will outshine the tea.
In addition, tea is served with sandwiches (perhaps someone does not like sweets or does not eat it for other reasons). Bread for such small sandwiches is cut into very thin slices. Hot sandwiches for tea are served very rarely — mostly in the cold.
Sandwiches should be light and tender: lettuce leaves rolled up on a thin slice of bread, a tomato or cucumber cut into pieces on a round piece of bread, cream cheese or pieces of crab meat on toast-these are the most typical types of sandwiches served with tea.
The bread should be yesterday’s bread. Melt the butter to make it easier to apply to the bread, and when the sandwiches are ready, pinch them between two plates and place the press on the top of them.
Do not serve large chunks of meat and sauces, as they will be difficult to eat neatly.
Dessert wine, cognac or rum can be served at the tea table — but this may not be quite appropriate at an official tea reception.
Lemon is served cut into mugs, spreading them out with a “rose” on a small plate. Next to it, be sure to put a special fork for lemon (with two prongs) — a device for general use.
The cake is supposed to be served on the table uncut and cut in the presence of guests. Sweets should preferably be served in a box, and not started. Jam is served in vases of classic shape (on a high leg).
Sugar is served in two types: sand or refined sugar (as a rule, only refined sugar is served at official tea parties). In the sugar bowl, even if there is a slot in its lid, it is necessary to put a spoon for general use, and in the event that refined products are served, tongs are placed on the table next to the sugar bowl.
The ceremony of a classic English-style tea party involves serving milk in a milk jug. You can use regular milk, concentrated (but not condensed!) or cream. Before you pour the milk into the milk jug, do not forget to warm it up.
Tea is brewed based on the fact that in the cups it will no longer be diluted with boiling water. That is, for one drinker, one teaspoon of tea leaves (or a bag) is placed in the kettle. If you use a very large kettle — for five or six people-then you can add another spoon for everyone. After the tea is infused for 3-5 minutes (sometimes an hourglass is used to control the time – this is beautiful), it is poured into cups. And immediately after that, add boiling water from the jug to the kettle. And cover the kettle with a cover — thus tea-cosy-so that it does not cool down. At the first brewing of tea, it is not necessary to cover the kettle with a cover, although it is possible.
This topping, on the one hand, somewhat dilutes the tea, which by the time of drinking the first cup is already infused. And on the other hand, it will keep it relatively hot and quite tasty for repeated tea drinking. You can also add boiling water to the teapot after the second cup — although it should be remembered that with each such top – up, the quality of the tea will be slightly worse.
Learn more about the interesting traditions of Great Britain in the section “Stories about Britain”.