Friday, December 01, 2006

Tea Etiquette

Here are some notes I found from one of my talks on The Etiquette of Tea. I won't post everything, but here is an excerpt. Alas, Blooger does not seem to wish to post pictures again today.

*When setting the tea table remember to keep the handles of the cups at a four o'clock position. *A small teaspoon may rest on the saucer.
*The type of tea and way you brew it is important. It is best to use loose-leaf tea as it has a much better quality and taste. Tea bags may work in a pinch, but whatever you use should be removed from the pot, or cup before it is served. It is considered tacky to drink your tea with the tea bag still floating in your cup.
*It is not recommended to add anything to green or white teas. It is proper to add sugar, milk, or lemon to black teas when drinking them. Cream however, is not recommended; regular milk is preferred even if it is referred to as cream. Also, it is important to never add both milk and lemon, as the lemon will cause the milk to curdle and ruin your tea.
Some people add their sugar and milk before the tea is poured, some add it after. Either way is proper and there are good reasons for both views. Adding your special touches before does allow you to make sure you have enough room in the cup for everything you want. If ladies will be adding cream or sugar to their tea later, you may wish to ask if they would like you to leave room for cream, much as you would for coffee.
*As you stir your tea you should keep the bowl of the spoon in the bottom of the cup and make gentle stirring, or folding motions. Your stirring should be silent. No one should hear the spoon clang against the side of the teacup. Place the teaspoon back on your saucer when you are finished.
*Ready to take a drink? Be sure to lift both your cup and saucer. For right-handed ladies, you should hold the saucer in your left hand as you pick up the cup in the right hand. Don't loop your fingers into the handle, as many times it will not fit comfortably. The handle should actually be pinched between the fingers and thumbs. This inevitably leads to the pinkie dilemma: to lift or not to lift.
The right answer is simple. Do whichever is the most comfortable to you. We often think of it as a silly affectation, but there is a simple and logical reason as to why it started in the first place. When teacups were originally used in China they had no handle. Therefore, in order to avoid burning fingertips on boiling hot sides, people would rather pinch the edge of the cups at the twelve o'clock position, or pick it up with two fingers-one at the six o'clock position and one at twelve o'clock. By doing this the end fingers and pinkies often rise.

*Drink your tea carefully. It is meant to be savored. It should not be used to wash down the food. The idea is the same with the food served at teas. It should be served in bite-sized portions that are easy to eat with your fingers. It is proper to eat with your fingers at a tea. If you find an item too large to eat delicately in one bite, then by all means cut it up. Also, it is better to take smaller amounts of food first and refill your plate as needed then to try and load up on everything at once.
*Most etiquette items are really common sense. Don't let a variety of dos and don'ts stop you from enjoying a tea party. Please note that you may also choose to serve punch, hot cider, even hot cocoa at a tea. I'll often put pink lemonade in teapots if I am having girls over for a special time, but may not like tea.

The joy of tea is not just about what you choose to drink, but may pour over into how you choose to live your life.
Will you take the time to slow down, savor each sip, and steep yourself in beauty and serenity?
Will you find ways to infuse yourself with peace and sweeten your life with love?
If you are able to do this, your life will be rich and flavorful.


Kelli said...

What a wonderful post!! I love reading tea books but sometimes come away from them worried about all the rules. Your post was very helpful and I think having a small tea party would be fun. I did not know that about the teacup handles! I will have to go move mine foward an hour! :0)


Confections said...

Thanks, Kimberly, for this post. I read an article tonight about taking tea in San Francisco and advice was given to use both milk *and* lemon in a proper cup of tea, and I knew from experience and common sense that that was ludicrous.

Thank goodness I had the wisdom of your blog post to reassure me in the middle of the night! Please check out my local, lovely tea shop, Tea-upon-Chatsworth, which has an incredible High Tea.


Anonymous said...

The reason ladies originally put out their pinkie finger was because they were using the Chinese/Japanese tea cups that had no handle. Since your pinkie is the most sensitive finger it was held out while the thumb and other fingers balanced the cup. The tea cups with handles came later and thus you hold the cup by the handle with your thumb and index finger for balance and no pinkie is extended.

Also tea cup handles should be placed at the hour of the tea. A two o'clock tea, the handle should be set at two o'clock, etc.

Hope you find this helpful.

Have a Tea-Riffic Day!
Aurora Livingston, Director


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