It was Britain's Duchess of Bedford who began an afternoon tea-drinking tradition that is to this day, still followed religiously by people around the world. When she'd get thirsty and hungry, the Duchess would drink tea and eat a few snacks, since the gap between lunch and dinner was too great to go without any refreshments. There are all sorts of teas that we enjoy today, where the flavors and aromas they expel are welcomed wholeheartedly by our senses.
Tea parties are a particularly fun gathering to arrange, especially if you want to make time for friends and family on a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sun, enjoying tea and a spread of scrumptious pastries. To execute a tea party flawlessly, you'll need to follow certain rules of etiquette as part of this arrangement.
Proper Tea Party Etiquette
If you're hosting a sophisticated, formal tea party, it is wise to send out invitations to your guests with an RSVP request. Be sure to include a date by when you want guests to get back to you, so that the necessary arrangements can be done with the tea and food supply. The invitations don't have to be expensive; handmade and recyclable cards are available in elegant designs, where guests will appreciate your creativity. The tea party should ideally follow or precede lunch time; choose the timings accordingly.
The important things to arrange for, include: Tablecloths, linen napkins, cups and saucers, teaspoons, forks, knives, sugar-cube tongs, sugar bowl, tea bags, and a lemon dish (sliced and placed at the center of the table). Place a single teacup and saucer to the right of the guest's plate (decorative quarter plate), along with a single fork to the left. A spoon and knife should also be included, should guests require either; place these to the right of the plate.
Place cards are usually kept around tables to help guests figure out where they are to be seated. It avoids any kind of confusion, especially for big tea parties with a capacity of 10 or more. A small gift (optional) can be placed on each plate, like a bag of potpourri, chocolate pouch, or a mini scented candle. Have someone serve food and tea to the guests if the gathering is a large one, or place the food separately to one side on a buffet table, or at the center of each guests' table on a tiered stand.
How Not to Drink Tea
Slurping is a huge no-no when it comes to drinking tea; you must sip it silently, savor it, and swallow, without an uncivilized audible reaction. Lemon shouldn't be added to tea that already has milk in it; you don't want it to curdle midway. Tea should be enjoyed by―holding the teacup's handle using the first two fingers (for large cups; use your index finger only, for small ones) and thumb for support, controlling the urge to stick your pinky out, and not cupping the teacup in your hands like it's hot cocoa. If the tea is too hot to consume, wait for it to turn a little warm by eating a few snacks instead, and not by blowing on it. Use a fork for creamy or crumbly snacks and your hands for sandwiches and bite-sized ones.
When using a napkin, place it properly across your lap and not tucked into the front of your shirt. Once you're done drinking the first round of tea, you may ask for a second helping or reach out for a tea bag and hot water, where the milk, sugar, and other additions should be supplied at arm's length around guests. Once the party comes to an end, thank your guests for attending and inform them that you wish to see them again quite soon for yet another eventful tea party.