Emily Post and Tea

MoccasinJanuary 22, 2012

This is taken from Emily Post Etiquette book. Since it is in public domain, I can quote. I found the book among those available from Project Gutenberg, online, and for free.

Quoting now:


The every-day afternoon tea table is familiar to everyone; there is not

the slightest difference in its service whether in the tiny bandbox house

of the newest bride, or in the drawing-room of Mrs. Worldly of Great

Estates, except that in the little house the tray is brought in by a

woman--often a picture in appearance and appointment--instead of a butler

with one or two footmen in his wake. In either case a table is placed in

front of the hostess. A tea-table is usually of the drop-leaf variety

because it is more easily moved than a solid one. There are really no

"correct" dimensions; any small table is suitable. It ought not to be so

high that the hostess seems submerged behind it, nor so small as to be

overhung by the tea tray and easily knocked over. It is usually between 24

and 26 inches wide and from 27 to 36 inches long, or it may be oval or

oblong. A double-decked table that has its second deck above the main

table is not good because the tea tray perched on the upper deck is

neither graceful nor convenient. In proper serving, not only of tea but of

cold drinks of all sorts, even where a quantity of bottles, pitchers and

glasses need space, everything should be brought on a tray and not

trundled in on a tea-wagon!

A cloth must always be first placed on the table, before putting down the

tray. The tea cloth may be a yard, a yard and a half, or two yards square.

It may barely cover the table, or it may hang half a yard over each edge.

A yard and a quarter is the average size. A tea cloth can be colored, but

the conventional one is of white linen, with little or much white

needlework or lace, or both.

On this is put a tray big enough to hold everything except the plates of

food. The tray may be a massive silver one that requires a footman with

strong arms to lift it, or it may be of Sheffield or merely of effectively

lacquered tin. In any case, on it should be: a kettle which ought to be

already boiling, with a spirit lamp under it, an empty tea-pot, a caddy of

tea, a tea strainer and slop bowl, cream pitcher and sugar bowl, and, on a

glass dish, lemon in slices. A pile of cups and saucers and a stack of

little tea plates, all to match, with a napkin (about 12 inches square,

hemstitched or edged to match the tea cloth) folded on each of the plates,

like the filling of a layer cake, complete the paraphernalia. Each plate

is lifted off with its own napkin. Then on the tea-table, back of the

tray, or on the shelves of a separate "curate," a stand made of three

small shelves, each just big enough for one good-sized plate, are always

two, usually three, varieties of cake and hot breads.


The top dish on the "curate" should be a covered one, and holds hot bread

of some sort; the two lower dishes may be covered or not, according to

whether the additional food is hot or cold; the second dish usually holds

sandwiches, and the third cake. Or perhaps all the dishes hold cake;

little fancy cakes for instance, and pastries and slices of layer cakes.

Many prefer a simpler diet, and have bread and butter, or toasted

crackers, supplemented by plain cookies. Others pile the "curate" until it

literally staggers, under pastries and cream cakes and sandwiches of pate

de foie gras or mayonnaise. Others, again, like marmalade, or jam, or

honey on bread and butter or on buttered toast or muffins. This

necessitates little butter knives and a dish of jam added to the already

overloaded tea tray.

Selection of afternoon tea food is entirely a matter of whim, and new

food-fads sweep through communities. For a few months at a time, everyone,

whether in a private house or a country club, will eat nothing but English

muffins and jam, then suddenly they like only toasted cheese crackers, or

Sally Lunn, or chocolate cake with whipped cream on top. The present fad

of a certain group in New York is bacon and toast sandwiches and fresh hot

gingerbread. Let it be hoped for the sake of the small household that it

will die out rather than become epidemic, since the gingerbread must be

baked every afternoon, and the toast and bacon are two other items that

come from a range.

Sandwiches for afternoon tea as well as for all collations, are made by

buttering the end of the loaf, spreading on the "filling" and then cutting

off the prepared slice as thin as possible. A second slice, unspread,

makes the other side of the sandwich. When it is put together, the crust

is either cut off leaving a square and the square again divided diagonally

into two triangular sandwiches, or the sandwich is cut into shape with a

regular cutter. In other words, a "party" sandwich is not the sort of

sandwich to eat--or order--when hungry!

The tea served to a lady who lives alone and cares for only one dish of

eatables would naturally eliminate the other two. But if a visitor is

"received," the servant on duty should, without being told, at once bring

in at least another dish and an additional cup, saucer, plate and napkin.

Afternoon tea at a very large house party or where especially invited

people are expected for tea, should include two plates of hot food such as

toast or hot biscuits split open and buttered, toasted and buttered

English muffins, or crumpets, corn muffins or hot gingerbread. Two cold

plates should contain cookies or fancy cakes, and perhaps a layer cake. In

hot weather, in place of one of the hot dishes, there should be pate or

lettuce sandwiches, and always a choice of hot or iced tea, or perhaps

iced coffee or chocolate frappe, but rarely if ever, anything else.


There is more about Tea serving and drinking. I bet she doesn't like

"saucering and blowing," don't you? But it is so charming. The lady is

long gone, but still her name denotes good manners and propriety.

I stopped on p. 125 of the online readable version, if you

wish to continue reading further. Hope you enjoy it.

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I am glad that no one expects tea in my house!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 5:59PM
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