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The History and Etiquette of Afternoon Tea

The History and Etiquette of Afternoon Tea

The high tea experience at Indigo Age Café is one of a kind, offering a memorable experience that offers a unique assortment of mini-sweets and savouries accompanied by your choice of organic tea. It’s a tradition that we cherish and simply love sharing with our visitors. High tea typically takes place in the early evening and consists traditionally of light foods and tea, with another light meal taking place later. High tea takes its inspiration from the tradition of afternoon tea, which has been around for hundreds of years. To understand the tradition of high tea, we first need to look at the history and etiquette of afternoon tea.

An Important Imported History

Most know that tea drinking itself originally began in East Asia, where it was enjoyed and perfected for thousands of years. Tea made its first major introduction to Europeans in the 16th century, first through Portuguese merchants and later recorded by a Venetian geographer and travel writer. The Dutch East India Company was first to import tea west, where it became fashionable in the Netherlands, Germany, and France.

The association of tea with English high society came when a Portuguese tea fanatic princess, Catherine of Braganza, married Charles II in 1662. Catherine was known to take her all-female entourage into her private chambers to drink tea. Teatime continued to be refined through the coming centuries with the development of tea gardens and tea parties.

By the Victorian Age, several distinct types of Teatime were observed and etiquette became an art. New middle-class ladies, desperate to out-do their neighbours, followed highly-ritualized depictions of tea like those described by Jane Austen. Tea became an enriching daily break, and of course, a time to show off one’s own refined tastes regardless of status.

high tea experience at Indigo Age Cafe

Displaying Modern Manners

Today Afternoon Tea is still considered a formal affair outside the home and a distinct type of tea meal. Sandwiches, cakes, and scones are served, with still hot debate over seemingly trivial manners such as whether to use cream or jam first. There are some etiquette “musts” that should be adhered to, however.

Dress your Best. While Tea is now enjoyed by virtually all classes, it is still a special event when taken outside the home. This doesn’t mean it is a black tie event. These days smart casual is the way to go. Leave the trainers and sports clothing at home.

Absolutely no Pinkies! The pinky-out when drinking tea may have first been a way for rich ladies to show off their porcelain white arms, but today it is considered dreadfully outdated, almost comical.

Don’t Overfill or Stir Loudly. Tea should never be filled to the brim, this makes it more difficult to handle and will likely create a mess. When stirring, try not to let the spoon clang against the edges of the cup.

Dunk at Home. Dunking biscuits into your tea is a much beloved practice in homes across Britain. However, when you’re attending a more togged out setting it is more appropriate to refrain from dipping.

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