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Tea Room

Tea History & Culture

Pinky’s Up or Down? Tea Etiquette 101

November 16, 2021

Etiquette, in simpler words, is defined as good behavior which distinguishes human beings from animals. Etiquette refers to behaving in a socially responsible way.  From dipping you scone in your teacup to who pours the tea, we are diving in and discussing it all. In order to discuss proper tea etiquette, it must be understood that there are two different types of tea traditions: Afternoon Tea and High Tea. Afternoon Tea and High Tea are often mistaken for one another because many people don’t know that they are completely different meals. In traditional British tea ceremonies, afternoon tea was understood as tea that is meant for the upper class whereas high tea was meant for the lower class. Nowadays, we distinguish the two by the times in which they are served and the food dishes that accompany the tea.

Afternoon Tea

As we know it today, afternoon tea is traditionally served between 3 and 5pm. English afternoon teatime usually falls at 4pm, but in the US it is sometimes served as early as 2pm. Afternoon Tea can be credited by Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. In 1840 during Anna’s reign as Duchess, she would become hungry in the mid-afternoon which is when her staff would serve her tea and light sandwiches to keep her full until dinnertime. This habit became a tea tradition in the United Kingdom and has since become a fashionable social event.

Afternoon tea has also been referred to as “low tea” because of the table setting at a low table, in contrast to high tea which is served at higher tables. It was a time meant for the upper class to enjoy tea paired with a lite bite to fill the gap between lunchtime and dinnertime. Some of the lite bites served at afternoon tea include bite-sized sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and delicate pastries. It is important to note that food should be eaten in order of savory to sweet; no dunking your scone into your tea cup!

High Tea

High tea is offered in the early evening. Although high tea includes a more substantive fare when it comes to food, it is less fancy than afternoon tea as it was originally intended for people of the middle or lower classes. High tea is served at a dining table or high counter at the end of the workday. When the tea traditions were first started, afternoon tea was meant for the rich to enjoy while they go about their afternoon waiting for dinnertime. Afternoon tea was not an option to the working class as they were still working at that time and could not afford to spend several hours sipping tea during the workday. High tea is when the working class was expected to enjoy their tea as it was after the work day.

As mentioned earlier, high tea’s food menu was much more substantive than afternoon tea. Some items include: steak, kidney pie, pickled salmon, crumpets and potato to name a few. The reason that high tea was heartier was because this was essentially dinner for the people of the lower class. Whereas afternoon tea was just to hold people of the upper class over until their dinner which was usually around 8 pm.

Tea Etiquette

When attending afternoon tea and high tea, it is important to follow the dress code for afternoon tea and arrive in “smart casual” fashion. Your outfit should be neat and appropriate. For women this may include an appropriate length dress with a sweater or light jacket. For men, proper attire can include pants and a collared shirt. Clothing items that are not appropriate for afternoon tea include t-shirts shorts, or any type of athleisure. It is also not appropriate to wear anything that may be too revealing such as lowcut shirts and skin-tight dresses. The attire for afternoon tea should be a simple “smart casual” outfit similar to what some may wear to church.

Proper manners are also expected when attending both tea ceremonies. Proper manners include sipping your tea quietly, holding the teacup by the handle, and having your pinkie fingers down (yes, you read that right. Pinky’s are meant to be down!) Another expected rule includes keeping electronic devices away. There are also rules in place when it comes to tea and food.

The entire tea set should remain together. If someone asks for tea then the entire set should be passed to them. The saucer remains on the table and is not meant to be picked up while enjoying a cup of tea unless standing or sitting without a table. When adding anything to your tea, milk is expected to be added first. Do not over stir your tea. As previously noted, the order in which you eat your food is also important. Savory foods including bite-sized sandwiches should be consumed first, followed by scones, and saving the sweets for last. Food must be eaten with your hands, and a scone should be broken into smaller pieces before indulging. The handle of your teacup should be pointed a 3 o’clock if right handed and 9 o’clock if left handed.

What to serve

Food differs when attending afternoon or high tea. Afternoon tea can expect light food bites such as mini sandwiches, scones, and mini desserts. High tea requires silverware to eat the food and typically includes some sort of meat dish. Just as there are certain foods served during afternoon tea, there are certain teas served as well. Teas served during afternoon tea include Earl Grey, and other variations of black teas such as Assam and Darjeeling which can be found on our online collection of loose leaf teas. Our earl grey tea is perfect to serve at afternoon tea as it offers a light taste of delicately blended large leaf black tea and Bergamot oil. Although it is less traditional, herbal teas may also be offered during afternoon tea. Stronger teas are served during High Tea to compliment the heartier meal. This may include a black tea such as the Blackcurrant black tea listed on our online collection of black teas.

While many use the terms afternoon tea and high tea interchangeably, it is important to know and understand the differences between the tea. Tea rooms are found all across the world and may differ in traditions. Read our post on Tea Rooms to Add to Your Bucket List to find a place near you today.

Tea History & Culture

Tea Parties You Never Expected In Pop Culture

November 9, 2021

Teatime has been around since the 1800’s and has become a social event that can be seen in various Hollywood films and television shows. Whether you want to go down the rabbit hole on your way to the Mad Hatter’s tea party or sip on Afternoon Tea with the Crawley family in Downtown Abbey, we are walking you through some of our favorite tea references in pop culture. Let’s take a look at a few marvelous on screen tea moments where tea is either being brewed, boiled, served, passed around, or used as a prop to convey something funny, serious or casual that have kept us wanting more tea!

Mary Poppins Iconic Tea Party Scene

Mary Poppins is a famous musical film that was produced by Walt Disney in 1964. The famous Tea Party at Uncle Albert’s is a tea scene to remember. When Mary takes the children to visit her Uncle Albert, they drink a cup of tea that makes them float to the ceiling. Mary does the only sensible thing and brings tea up to join them. They then enjoy a practically perfect tea around a floating table dressed in a yellow tablecloth. This magical tea party scene is filled with joy and fantasy.

Alice in Wonderland the Mad Hatter’s tea party

Whether you are watching the 1951 animated film, or the 2010 live-action fantasy, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland is an event that is not to be missed. It is always tea time in Wonderland! This scene is the main event of the film and the reason why Alice goes on the adventures she does as she encounters the White Rabbit on his way to the tea party. The Mad Hatter’s tea party remains one of literature’s most psychedelic gatherings, leaving readers wondering if March Hare has filled the cups with something more than just tea.

Adele’s Hello music video

Tea made an appearance in pop culture in English singer and songwriter Adele’s music video for her grammy winning song, Hello. Adele, a United Kingdom native, pours herself a cup of tea in the Hello music video to soother her broken heart and this totally stirred the pot, no pun-intended. Fans were outraged at the way Adele prepared her tea which caused quite the uproar among her British fans. She is shown boiling the water and proceeds to pour the hot water and then add in a teabag, which is where the controversy began. In the U.K., it is traditional to steep your tea bag in the hot water prior to pouring your glass. She has since come out and said that she is not the one that made that cup of tea. She said, “I like to brew the tea bag, add a bit of sugar, bit of milk, stir it, stir it, stir it, ring it out, put it wherever you want.”

Sweet Tea in Steel Magnolias

It’s no secret that Sweet Tea is a popular drink in the South. Sweet tea is consumed throughout the 1989 Comedy-Drama film, Steel Magnolias, which takes place in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Dolly Parton’s character, Truvy Jones, famously refers to sweet tea as “the house wine of the South.” Refer to our post on Iced Teas for a Southern Sweet Tea recipe. 

Downtown Abbey

If you are into period dramas, then there is no doubt you have watched PBS’s Downtown Abbey. The show takes place in the early 1900s as it follows an English aristocratic family in a fictional town called Downtown Abbey. During this time in England, teatime was a popular ritual that was served in various different settings. Throughout the show, we see the characters gather for deluxe Afternoon Teas and High Teas. It’s no secret that the British loved to indulge in teatime, which is why it became such a huge social event and is expressed that way throughout the show.

Gossip Girl – The Russian Tea Room

Gossip girl is full of tea, and not just the spilling kind. In Season 2, Episode 23, the characters visit the Russian Tea Room that is full of tea. From gossip spilling, to tea sipping, this episode is the perfect example of the social expectations that come with tea ceremonies. Aside from this episode, there are numerous other scenes where characters like Blair Waldorf share an intimate cup of tea together in deep thought and discussion.

Tea Travel

Ten Cool Tea Parlors To Check Out

November 10, 2016

From sea to shining sea, there are some great places to grab tea.  From parlors you should hit up to relish in their history to parlors you should visit because they are simply stunning, here are 10 tea spots  to plug into your GPS:

1) Nom Wah Tea Parlor – New York City 

Smack dab in the middle of a street shaped like a boomerang, this tea parlor’s been pouring the good stuff since 1920. Back in the day, the street was known as “The Bloody Angle” for all the Chinese gang violence that plagued the street—its curvature made it perfect for sneak attacks. Nom Wah serves a plethora of teas to go with its famed dim sum. From oolong and Tie Guanyin to Long Jing and Chrysanthemum, Nom Wah serves teas that offer a variety of flavors and benefits, like boosted weight loss and antioxidants. Peek inside for a 360 degree view HERE.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

13 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-6047

2) Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel – New York City

For the fanciest afternoon tea of your life, head to New York’s most famous hotel: The Plaza. Inside on the first floor, architect Thierry Despont did his best to bring Central Park indoors with the Palm Court. Palm trees, plants, marble, and a stained glass dome blend nature and luxury. Tea aficionados young and old will delight in the setting and menu. From scones and sandwiches to pastries and baked goods, there’s plenty that’s savory and sweet to go with your tea. For children who want to be like Eloise, there’s Tropical Garden or Vanilla Iced Tea, and for adults there’s a selection of teas and champagne. Children 16 and under can get Afternoon Tea for $50, while adults will need to shell out $110.

The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel

768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019

3) American Tea Room – Los Angeles  

This Los Angeles tearoom features a wide array of iced and hot teas. The Cold Bar offers standouts like the Marrakesh Mojito (Marrakesh Green Tea with lime, mint, and syrup) and the Georgia Peach Sweet Tea. The Hot Bar features items such as the Himalayan Butter Tea (Nepalese Black, Oolong & Pu Er Tea Churned with Butter, Salt, Milk, and Honey) and the Okinawa Life Tea (Grand Jasmine Tea, Zingiber Tea, Turmeric, Ginger and Honey). There’s also a bevy of matcha options along with pastries, savory pies, truffles, and petit fours for hungry stomachs.

American Tea Room

909 S Santa Fe Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90021

4) Samovar Tea Bar – San Francisco

Who said a tearoom has to be kitschy and cute? Samovar in San Franciso’s Mission district is sleek and minimalist. No doilies or knick-knacks here. They’ve got chai teas, tea lattes, herbal teas, iced teas, and more, like Oolong, white, turmeric, and Chocolate Pu-er. On-trend toasts and sweets are available to pair. If you’re looking for sit-down service, the minds behind Samovar run three tea lounges in San Francisco.

Samovar Tea Bar

The Mission
411 Valencia Street
San Francisco, 94103
(415) 553-6887

5) Ching Ching Cha – Washington, DC

Proprietor Ching Ching named this DC teahouse after himself. Every year, he travels to China, Taiwan, and Japan to bring back the best teas for his customers at this Georgetown tearoom. Ching Ching Cha features over 70 different kinds of tea along with traditional Chinese deserts, dumplings, and snacks. Everything is served in a traditional Chinese way—no shoes, no service. The environment is serene; a Washington City Paper reviewer even said that sipping tea here was like getting a full body massage, a sentiment that the Washington Post echoed in 1999 when it wrote Ching Ching Cha “has such an aura of peaceful beauty that you feel as if you were shedding the outside world along with your coat.” So for some inner peace and a tasty drink, head to Ching Ching Cha.

Ching Ching Cha

1063 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington DC 20007, USA

6) Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental – Las Vegas

Enjoy a pot of your favorite tea while gazing at the Eifel Tower from this skyscraping Vegas tea lounge. Adults can enjoy Afternoon Tea for $38, treating themselves to a selection of loose-leaf teas, salmon, chicken, crab, scones, and pastries. Children 12 and under can enjoy Children’s Afternoon Tea for $28, which includes kid-friendly PB&J, turkey and cheese, scones, a cupcake, and pastries. The Mandarin offers additional on-trend alcoholic teas, like the Royal Tea, which blends vodka with chilled Osmanthus Oolong tea and lemon, or the Tea-tini, which combines bourbon with cold Jasmine pearl tea, apple juice, and agave nectar.

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

3752 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89158, USA
(702) 590 8888

7) High Garden – Nashville

Indoor branches and stools made from tree stumps put the garden in Music City’s High Garden. This East Nashville shop serves premium loose leaf teas from Japan, China, Taiwan, and India, as well as herbal infusions that promote energy, wellness, and relaxation. The Tea Flights special offers four teas served side-by-side for $10.

High Garden

935 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 919-4195

8) Abigail’s Tea Room – Boston           

When you hear “tea,” you think Boston. Home of the Boston Tea Party, Beantown has a proud history of tea drinkers (and throwers). Abigail’s Tea Room is part of the Boston Tea Party Museum. After actors bring the story of the Boston Tea Party to life, you can settle in to celebrate the drink that is partly responsible for our independence. Abigail’s serves up five historic teas in a bottomless Tea Tasting cup for $2.95; a Tea Platter for four is just $12 and includes a pot of Abigail’s Blend to pair with scones.

Abigail’s Tea Room

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
306 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210

9) Band of Bohemia – Chicago

This Chicago eatery bills itself as a “culinary brewhouse” and it’s known for its teas, which include black or green iced Tea and several premium blends, such as the Yame Kabusecha, described as a “Kabuse-style green tea from Hoshinumura Village” with notes of cucumber, untoasted nori, and sea salt. The Ruby 18 tea brings together Taiwanese and Indian Assam teas with notes of sassafras, menthol, and earth. Paintings by Chicago artist Elizabeth Webe decorate the space, giving it an artistic vibe.

Band of Bohemia

4710 N Ravenswood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 271-4710

 10) Full English – Austin

England is known for its tea. But if you don’t have the dough to hop across the pond, you’ll love this Brit-owned and run café in Austin. It’s artsy and old school and there’s even legos to keep your hands busy in between sips of tea, of which they have plenty: leaf teas, bagged teas and tea lattes abound. Try the Zhi Egyptian Chamomile, the Tetley Masala, or the Full English London Fog Latte. High Tea is available by appointment 24 hours in advance for $15 and includes a selection of tea sandwiches, scones, and sweets. So put on your best British accent or red coat and get Full English.

Full English

2000 Southern Oaks Drive
Austin, TX 78745