Remember the tea kettle . . .
it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings!
it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings!
“Rejoice in the Lord always . . . Rejoice!”
Recently, I was called to do a last minute presentation on tea for the Sand Dollar Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, Inc. when their speaker canceled. I chose to do a tea time game – TEAGO – which I based on Cheryl Dunbar’s Tea Time Bingo and is a short and sweet way of learning about Tea Time.
The decorations for their Christmas luncheon included teapot centerpieces and place card nametags for each of the members with embellished teapots, so the bingo-like cards I had created added to the mix perfectly.
As I read the following story, the ladies circled their cards when a highlighted tea time term was used to create a “T” and there was a winner at each table:
A Spot of Tea is a popular British phrase to express a tradition that evolved out of a practice of tea drinking in Britain that began in the late 1600s. During the 18th century, dinner was served at a gradually later and later time until the normal time became between and . An extra meal was added to fill the gap, but it was very light since the servants were off duty during the middle of the day. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s lady in waiting, had the idea of having her maid bring her a slice or two of bread and butter to go along with her tea when the servants returned at . She found this such perfect refreshment that she started inviting her friends to join her for this new social event. Over the years, this cultural sensation expanded into three separate events during the day – a light tea, an afternoon tea and a high tea – depending on time, location and accompaniments, along with customs, rules and expectations!
No matter the time of day, the central part of the menu is the tea. All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, and the different types – green, oolong and black are a result of different processing. Herbals are not from the same plant and are properly called infusions or tisanes. Loose leaf is preferred over tea bags, but either should be brewed and served in teapots. Always take the teapot to the kettle, use a tea ball or tea strainer and remember to remove the leaves after the proper steeping time to make the perfect cup of tea. It is best to offer a choice of only two – usually a black tea such as Assam, Ceylon or Darjeeling plus a decaffeinated tea or caffeine-free herbal such as Chamomile, Peppermint or Hibiscus for your sensitive guests. Specialty teas are also popular and include Scented Teas like Green Jasmine, Flavored Teas like Earl Grey, Spiced Tea like Masala Chai, Blended Teas like Bene-ful Berry, or Novelty Tea like Blooming Teas or Kukicha Twig.
The teacup should be filled only three-quarters of the way and milk, sugar cubes, or honey if desired, should be added before the tea. If preferred, a thin lemon slice, sometimes with a clove placed in the center, can float in the teacup, but never remove the lemon once it has been added or use a teaspoon to press.
The proper manner to drink tea is to leave the saucer on the table and lift the cup, putting it back between sips. Hold the cup by the handle, using a bent index finger and thumb to pinch the handle and although once necessary for balancing cups, pinkies need not be raised nor should the teacup be grasped with the palm of your hand!
A Light Tea Time is also known as “Elevensies” since it is most commonly served at 11am, although it can also be at 2pm. Tea is served with a scone and jam or a biscuit(cookie) and becomes a Cream Tea if Devonshire Cream is added to accompany the scone.
An Afternoon Tea Time is traditionally served between 3pm and 5pm. There are basically three options for an Afternoon Tea. Guests may be individually served from a tea cart or tea tray on a low table (which is why Afternoon Tea is also called Low Tea), seated at a formal table or several smaller tables with 3-tiered stands or you may have a buffet-style presentation allowing guests to serve themselves with a tea server and Silver Tea Service at one end.
Afternoon Tea consists of three courses – savories, scones and sweets. Popular savories include tea sandwiches such as cucumber, egg salad, and chicken, made with different breads and cut into various shapes and hors d’ouvres such as bruschetta or mini-quiche. Scones can be plain or include fruit, nuts and even chocolate chips. Plain scones are traditionally served warm topped with jam or jelly, Devonshire Cream or lemon curd. Sweets are petite bite-sized treats such as petit-fours, tarts and chocolate strawberries plus a larger visual dessert such as trifle. An Afternoon Tea served with champagne is called a Royal Tea.
A High Tea Time is actually a working class affair which replaced dinner with hearty dishes plus tea and is served between 5pm and 7pm. It is served at a high dining table which is where it gets its name! Traditional foods include soup, salads, one or two hot dishes, pot pies, cold chicken & sliced meats, cakes and fresh fruit.
No matter what your choice, a tea time is the ideal way to entertain neighbors, friends and business acquaintances!
The winners each received a packet of a caffeine-free tea blend – Vanilla Chai, Chocolate Orange, Cinna-Nilla or Mint Crème Chip plus I also gave away a copy of my Tea Time Gatherings booklet to one of the ladies with a December birthday closest to the event date! Everyone received a copy of the following poems about High Tea vs Afternoon Tea and instructions for The Perfect Cup of Tea:
High Tea vs Afternoon Tea
High Tea (essentially It’s Supper)
Beans on toast and leftover roast,
the last meal of the day.
Jeans and shirts, or comfy old skirts,
Slippers are quite okay.
Tea that’s black, the pot with a crack,
placemats for everyday.
Neighbors, mates, or long-standing dates:
Pets won’t be in the way.
Afternoon Tea (Indubitably a Party)
Cakes and tart and scones shaped like hearts,
an afternoon affair.
Frocks and pearls topped with hats and curls,
Perfume applied with a flair.
Fine Earl Grey, a fresh bouquet,
The table set with care.
Invited guests (some dear, some pests).
Manners? Beyond compare!
J. Camille Korsmo
The Perfect Cup of Tea
#1 Use loose tea instead of teabags
Loose tea has larger particles which retain freshness and flavor longer. Loose tea is also a bargain at over 200 cups per pound.
#2 Store tea properly
Four things can harm tea: air, light, moisture and excessive heat. Tea should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location in an airtight container. Black and oolong teas may be stored for several years, but green, white & herbal teas should be used within 6 months to a year.
#3 Use the correct amount of tea
Use 1 teaspoon loose tea for a 6oz cup or 1 heaping tablespoon for a pot. If the particles are larger as with herbal teas a little more is needed. If using an infuser, DO NOT OVERFILL – allow room for the leaves to expand.
#4 Use good tasting water
First make sure the kettle is clean because mineral deposits add bitterness, then add cold water from the tap, a filter or bottled water, but never distilled water. If using the tap, allow water to run before filling kettle because it loses oxygen when it sets in the pipes.
#5 Use water at the right temperature
Preheat teapot and teacups with hot water. Heat the kettle so that the water is simmering for white or green tea, steaming for oolong and to a full boil for black and herbal teas.
#6 Steep for the proper length of time
Steeping time depends on the type of tea: in general the darker the tea the longer it is steeped for example black tea should be brewed 4-5 mins while white tea only 1 min. Herbal teas (tisanes) need to be steeped up to 10 mins for the greatest amount of health benefits. Separate or strain after the recommended time.
#7 Serve hot and fresh
Cover the teapot with a tea cozy or use a thermo-style carafe that is used only for tea to keep the tea hot during steeping. Never reheat tea, instead use it for ice tea, ice cubes or to prepare juices.
See these links for more information on available free presentations and demonstrations for your groups!