Eighteenth Century / Food and Culture

Tea: It’s Full of Temptation


The earliest descriptions western descriptions of tea occurred in 1559 in a volume of travel literature.  However, tea was not introduced to Europe until 1610.  The earliest descriptions of tea as a commodity in England began in the mid-seventeenth century. And ends in the early nineteenth century with the disbanding of the East India Company’s monopoly of the tea trade in 1833.

When Catherine of Braganza of Portugal married Charles II in 1662, she brought with her the penchant for tea. Since tea was already a common drink in Europe, it as only a matter of time until tea replaced wine, ale and spirits as the drink of the aristocracy and court.

Tea was not the only popular beverage in the eighteenth century.  Coffeehouse or “penny universities” were popular among men as women were forbidden to enter them.  Thus making tea a domestic drink, drunk mostly by women.   It is said that Catherine, England’s first tea-toting queen, commonly invited friends to her bedchamber to share tea with her.   This was a common occurrence not just in the English queen’s bedchamber but throughout the aristocracy was well.  To invite other women in to each other’s lady’s closet or bedchamber for a mainly female gathering allowed the ladies to display their tea and the fine pieces of porcelain for brewing and drinking it.   The common custom in the eighteenth century was to receive callers with their morning tea while “abed and bare breasted” (take that as you will).  Tea accouterments were not housed in kitchens or even dinning rooms but in the ladies boudoirs in small private closets.

The earliest tea service dates back to Queen Anne of Great Britain (crowned 1702), she drank tea on such a regular basis that she replaced the tiny teapots of the Chinese with a large bell-shaped silver teapot.

Drinking tea was not only a indoor affaire to be had by women, in the eighteenth century tea moved to the outdoors as well with the advent of the tea garden.  The tea garden was an ideal place for both sexes to meet freely and enjoy entertainment with their tea.  Entertainment in the tea garden included but was not limited to:  temptation in general, ballrooms with orchestras, hidden arbors, flowered walks, gambling, racing, flowered walks, bowling greens and fireworks at night.

Tea gardens were not all fun and games.  One was expected to behaved accordingly:

Etiquette when attending a tea party

  • Greeting/handshake
  • After sitting down — put purse on lap or behind you against chair back
  • Napkin placement — unfold napkin on your lap, if you must leave temporarily place napkin on chair.
  • Sugar/lemon — sugar is placed in cup first, then thinly sliced lemon and never milk and lemon together. Milk goes in after tea — much debate over it, but according to Washington School of Protocol, milk goes in last. The habit of putting milk in tea came from the French. “To put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love, perhaps never to marry.” (Tea superstition)
  • The correct order when eating on a tea tray is to eat savories first, scones next and sweets last. We have changed our order somewhat. We like guests to eat the scones first while they are hot, then move to savories, then sweets.
  • Scones — split horizontally with knife, curd and cream is placed on plate. Use the knife to put cream/curd on each bite. Eat with fingers neatly.
  • Proper placement of spoon — the spoon always goes behind cup, also don’t leave the spoon in the cup.
  • Proper holding of cup — do not put your pinky “up”, this is not correct. A guest should look into the teacup when drinking — never over it.

(Taken directly from:  http://www.afternoontoremember.com/learn/etiquette)


Other aspects about tea for your enjoyment:

Various Tea Times

  • Cream Tea — A simple tea consisting of scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd and tea.
  • Low Tea/Afternoon Tea — An afternoon meal including sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, curd, 2-3 sweets and tea. Known as “low tea” because guests were seated in low armchairs with low side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.
  • Elevensies — Morning coffee hour in England
  • Royale Tea — A social tea served with champagne at the beginning or sherry at the end of the tea.
  • High Tea — High tea co notates an idea of elegancy and regal-ness when in fact is was an evening meal most often enjoyed around 6 pm as laborers and miners returned home. High tea consists of meat and potatoes as well as other foods and tea. It was not exclusively a working class meal but was adopted by all social groups. Families with servants often took high tea on Sundays in order to allow the maids and butlers time to go to church and not worry about cooking an evening meal for the family.

(Taken directly from:  http://www.afternoontoremember.com/learn/etiquette)







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