Tea and Me
I was born and raised in England, and have enjoyed the tradition of afternoon tea for 3 decades (since I was 10). Having afternoon tea in England is a valued tradition. In our home, during my childhood, and especially at weekends or special occasions, it was served around the table at 5 o'clock. The spread was perhaps not as fancy, or as decadent, as in the cafes and restaurants, but tea was always served on a pretty white table cloth with china teacups and saucers. We enjoyed delicate tea sandwiches, homemade cakes and biscuits, and of course, the loose leaf tea from a teapot, using a tea strainer. This would keep us happy until suppertime. My Nana was an expert baker and the "Burkes Family Tea Parties" are fondly remembered. My father's parents were confectioners, and his grandparents owned a bakery, so I really enjoy carrying on the family tradition of working with food.
I moved to Austin in 2011, after meeting a handsome Texan, whilst on my travels abroad. We got married, and now Texas is where I call home. We have enjoyed traveling, visiting other countries, and learning about other cultures and traditions. France and French-speaking Canada are among my favorites, as their pastries and patisserie are to die for. My travels and work experience in France and Quebec also have an influence on my menu.
There are many afternoon tea parties taking place in England every day, from the garden parties at Buckingham Palace, to the cream teas at a high-street tea shop. Afternoon tea is enjoyed by crowds of people at parties and weddings, or by two friends sipping and catching up. It is inspiring to see how many places provide this delightful experience. I love having the opportunity to offer it in Austin!
The History and the Etiquette
In 1840 an English Duchess decided that she got peckish (a little hungry), between lunch and dinner. She decided it was too long to wait for a meal, so she needed a light bite in between. At 4pm, daily, she began to enjoy cucumber sandwiches and petits fours.
The custom caught on and people began partake in this afternoon activity; they would dress up to dress up for it and pretty soon it became a regular mealtime.
Remember not to let etiquette get in the way of fun. Afternoon tea is most enjoyable when everyone is feeling relaxed. There is no real need for "airs and graces". If you think etiquette is fun, and you would like to adopt some of the customs for your tea party, choose the ones that suit you.
Some of the Do's - Dress smartly: a jacket for men and a nice dress for ladies. No jeans or sportswear, sneakers etc. would be frowned upon. You can accessorize with a hat (yes even indoors - though it looks even more sophisticated for a garden party). Lace gloves were all the rage at one time, so they go well with teatime attire, and you can even keep them on to pick up your cucumber sandwiches!
Some of the Don'ts - it is not necessary to lift your pinkie to drink tea. If you like milk in your tea, add it after the tea has been poured. Afternoon Tea is not High Tea. High tea is more of a hearty meal enjoyed a little later and less so by high society. Pronounce the word scone as 'skon' and don't let anyone correct you!