Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Etiquette of Taking Tea at the Golden Tea Garden

A few weeks ago a friend and I attended the Golden Tea Garden's special tea, The Etiquette of Taking Tea.

The event was described as such:
    So many guests have asked about the etiquette of taking tea that we should have another lesson. 

    Do you wonder who should pour, when to add sugar/cream, when should you place your napkin on your lap,  where should you put your napkin when going to the ladies room or when finished, can you eat that delectable treat in one bite or must you dissect it on your plate first?  What are you supposed to eat first?

    We will learn the answers to these inquiries and many others from our esteemed Etiquette Instructor, Lady Sylvia Montgomery.  Lady Montgomery has conducted etiquette lessons with her private groups at the Golden Tea Garden for years and now she will share her wisdom  with my guests. 

    As we enjoy a special High Tea Service Lady Montgomery will explain the fineries of taking tea.
This got me very excited! I was hoping to learn a lot about tea etiquette and some tricks of the trade perhaps. I was hoping I would learn whether the cream or the sugar goes first when preparing your cup of tea. I remember reading somewhere, in Tea Time Magazine perhaps, that the cream is supposed to go first. They had a long explanation of why but I can't remember what they said about it exactly. Also, a friend of mine from Australia who has a sister who lives in England told me once that when a pot of tea is served at your table, to ensure it has had sufficient time to brew you are supposed to rotate the pot clockwise X amount of times before pouring from it. With this as well, I can't remember how many times to rotate... perhaps 3? Maybe 5? With this particular trick of the trade I wasn't really thinking everyone in England does this (I would think the really good tea places would already have your tea brewed correctly before serving it to your table) but I did think this was a cute little trick. 
In any case, I think I had my expectations set too high for this etiquette tea. Not to say anything bad about the Golden Tea Garden, which I love. It's more just that we are American after all and perhaps manners are not our fine suit. What my friend Wendy and I found when we attended the Etiquette of Taking Tea tea was more of a general etiquette class served while having tea. There was not too much said specifically about tea etiquette, rather more on table manners, though there was some things said about tea etiquette and somethings were learned.
In any case, I will outline what was discussed.  
  • As soon as you sit down you should put your napkin on your lap folded in a triangle. Use the top of the napkin when dabbing at your mouth or fingertips. The bottom of the napkin is to protect your lap.
  • When sitting you should be about 8 inches away from the table.
  • If you are relaxed you may put your forearms on the table. 
  • Never put your cell phone or purse on the table.
  • If you need to excuse yourself from the table, your napkin goes on your chair. 
  • When pouring tea, never fill the tea cup to the top; be sure to leave room for adding cream or sugar.
  • Always use the accouterments or sugar spoon to pick up the sugar from the sugar bowl. 
  •  Try not to make any noise when stirring in your cream or sugar. Your spoon should not touch the sides of your tea cup. With your spoon stir from 6 o'clock to 12 o'clock then make figure 8s. Never swirl your cup.
  • When done stirring in your cream or sugar, place your spoon on the side of the saucer. Never leave your spoon inside the cup.
  • If you are somewhere that serves sugar in packets ask for a saucer to put the waste in.
  • If you are adding in lemon, you should have been served lemon slices. If you were served lemon wedges cup your hand over the wedge to squeeze it into the tea.
  • Bring up your saucer with you when drinking. Your cup should never be more than 12 inches away from your saucer at all times. 
  • When you place your cup down, your tea cup handle and spoon should be at the 4 o'clock position.  
  • When eating soup always dip the spoon from front to back then up. Bend slightly forward and bring the spoon to you. Do not slouch forward too much and do not sit straight up. When getting to the end of the soup tilt the bowl away from you to get the last of the soup. If putting crackers in your soup, do not put more than one piece at a time. 
  • If you are served food on a tiered plate always start from the bottom of the tier up. She described this as being savories first, then scone, then desserts. But I always thought scones were first, then savories, then desserts. ?
  • If you are sharing a tiered plate, use the utensils to take the food off the plate.
  • When eating a scone, break one piece off at a time and put on your lemon curd, jam, or cream on the broken off piece. Eat one bite at a time. In other words, pick it up, break it, spread, then eat.
  • For things that could be messy, use your knife and fork and cut it. Cut one piece at a time when eating food. 
  • When using utensils, never put utensils back on the table. Leave utensils propped up on the plate.
  • When you are finished from the meal, lightly crumple your napkin and place on the left side of the table. 
  • I found this particularly interesting: When you have a tea party there's always a specified person to pour the tea-- this person is called the mother. She also does the cream, sugar, and lemon. If Mother is away from the table there should be a designated person to do the pouring; this is usually a close friend. Is this true? Is Mother an English or American thing?
There there you have it. 
And now, pictures from our tea:  
The Golden Tea Garden, Hayward, CA
Indoor Mural, The Golden Tea Garden, Hayward, CA

Fountain and Mural, The Golden Tea Garden, Hayward, CA

The Table Waiting For Us

The Tea Menu at the Golden Tea Garden

More Tea Choices

Love that the Golden Tea Garden Has Over 300 Tea Choices!

Our Tea Pots at the Golden Tea Garden

First Course Chilled Strawberry Soup

Tiered Plate: from bottom, seafood salad in cucumber, cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, chicken salad on wheat, egg salad sandwich, ham and water cress tea sandwich; middle tier, grape macaron, swan cream pastry puff, petite four, strawberry filo; top tier, cream filled strawberry, mini chocolate truffles, scone

Heart-shaped Scone

Enjoying Tea at the Golden Tea Garden

Outfit of the Day:

When we went out to tea, it was a rainy cool day. I opted to wear a maroon sweater dress from B.B. Dakota from Nordstrom Rack, a beaded collar from Nordstrom, beige Vera Wang sweater tights from Kohls, beaded head band from Forever 21, Chelsea Crew Sofia mary janes and a black cardigan.

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