Raising your pinky is a huge no-no, didn’t you know?
There’s nothing quite as elegant as the way the British have their tea (We imagine Downton Abbey fans nodding in agreement.). From the tea leaves to the tea cups to the pastries to the stirring, English afternoon tea is certainly a well-kept tradition that’s held in high regard in the UK.
If you’re having tea like a true Brit, here are 5 brilliant tips you need to know to have a truly lovely time. Napkins at the ready!
- Your at-tea-tion, please!
Afternoon tea is the proper way the English have their tea. But what time should one have it? It’s typically served between three and five in the afternoon—The Queen of England has hers every 4PM—with a variety of small cakes, sandwiches, and scones (pronounced as “skonns,” not “scoans”).
But how exactly did afternoon tea come about? It all started during the 19th century when Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford and close friend of Queen Victoria, craved for refreshments between lunch (which was a light meal at that time) and a late dinner (usually served at 8pm). So she summoned a pot of Darjeeling tea, cakes and sandwiches to her boudoir every afternoon. She enjoyed this afternoon habit so much that she started inviting her friends over… and the rest is history.
- London calling
Transform your flat condo into London by displaying bits ‘n bobs that symbolize British pop culture: a Union Jack print, a red telephone booth, a Big Ben ornament, Spice Girls posters, crown jewels, royal guards, Mini Cooper die-cast toys, football scarves, a photo of Benedict Cumberba—hang on…no. You get the picture, right? Take a cue from the Knightsbridge Residences in Makati City. Century Properties’ lavishly decorated residential tower and luxury skyscraper was inspired by the ultra-exclusive Knightsbridge community in London, where posh celebrities like chef Nigella Lawson and actor Hugh Grant reside. Just step into Knightsbridge Residences’ common areas—such as the living room, library, rec room, and movie room – and get instantly transported to Cool Britannia! To enjoy your afternoon tea at this British-inspired enclave, head over to the Knightsbridge Residences’ very own dining room with a cool view of the city!
- Tea time!
For the star of the show, the actual tea to drink, any variety can be brewed for afternoon tea. Her Majesty’s favorite blends are Earl Grey and Darjeeling, if you must know. Make sure to serve separately the milk and sugar. Prepare proper tea cups (Please refrain from using mugs or glasses) with matching saucers, a tea strainer, teaspoons, small forks, knives for spreading jams, 12-inch starched white linen napkins, and of course, the snacks. For the true tea connossieur, a tea timer also comes in handy to get the right infusion down to a T(ea).
- Sandwiches, scones, and such
If possible, serve food on a tiered cake stand with the square cakes on top then crust-off cucumber sandwiches, scones, strawberry jams, and cream on the lower levels. Hold the cupcakes! They do not exist in afternoon tea.
- Mind your etiquette
As the host, you should be the designated pourer. Using a tea strainer over a tea cup, pour tea into a cup and hand it over to your guest immediately. Never ever pour tea all at once in all the cups then distribute. Allow your guests to then add milk or sugar, stirring in the proper forward-backward motion instead of in a circular manner, which could slosh the tea around messily—very inelegant.
Now, how to drink like a royal: Sit up straight and spread out the napkin on your lap. Hold the cup by the handle (careful not to insert your finger into the hole), pinky tucked in, and slowly take a silent sip. If you’d like to take a pause, don’t cradle the cup in your hands; put it down on the saucer in between sips.
For the snacks, it is polite to eat with your fingers, save for the square cakes. A good scone will easily break in half so you can spread the jam and cream using a knife. Resist the urge to put the halves back together before taking a bite, that’s just not how the Brits do it.
When tea time is over, use your napkin to dab away any crumbs or tea on your lips and leave the cloth on the table unfolded.
And afternoon tea is for relaxing and socializing, so put your gadget use to a minimum.
In case you’d like to try French or Japanese afternoon tea sets, you can always head on over to Le Petit Souffle on the third floor of Century City Mall in Makati. These sets are available from two to five in the afternoon daily.
Tea tradition may look simple but, actually, it is much more sophisticated. If you have passion for all things British, knowing the proper way to have tea is an absolute must.
So, tea, anyone?