Setting The Perfect High Tea Table
One of Queen Victoria’s Ladies in Waiting once complained of an afternoon “sinking feeling.” Victoria’s court served immensely large breakfasts, minimal lunches, and very late dinners. As the late afternoon hours began setting in, many felt tired and hungry. Lady Anna, Duchess of Bedford began ordering teas, small cakes, and sandwiches to be delivered to her chambers every afternoon. Soon, the whole court was abuzz with the Duchess’ ritual. The afternoon ceremony quickly evolved into one of the most sophisticated social events of the period. Henry James once commented, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as an afternoon tea.” Replacements, Ltd. is here to help you pay tribute to this beautiful Victorian tradition by detailing some its finer aspects.
Time and Location
Lady Anna began complaining of her sinking feeling around 4 or 5:00 o’clock. However, tea parties can take place a variety of times. Bright midmornings, sunny afternoons, and early evenings all are agreeable times at which to serve high tea. Garden tea parties are common throughout the world, including the White House and Buckingham Palace. Tea can also be served in solariums, dining rooms, formal tea rooms, living rooms, and sun porches. The key to choosing a location is to a select a place where your guests can gather intimately and feel comfortable visiting with one another.
The purpose of serving high tea often varies. Many use the occasion to teach the finer aspects of etiquette to young ones. The high tea setting is the perfect chance to exhibit and teach formal manners. Church groups, prayer groups, civic organizations, art societies, and friends often gather for the afternoon tea ritual to discuss business at hand. Some throw tea parties for the purpose of gossiping and catching up with their busy friends. Soon after Queen Victoria’s court adopted “high tea” as a fixed engagement of the day, a ceremony known as “tea and sympathy” emerged. “Tea and sympathy” is the informal equivalent of confession. Often, when someone felt poorly, had committed some transgression, and even in the case of the passing of a loved one, friends would gather and offer “tea and sympathy.”
Tea was first brought to Europe in 1560 when the Portuguese priest, Father Jasper de Cruz, successfully engaged in trade with China. Soon after the priest's successful engagement with the Orient, Portugal began importing tea leaves. By 1700, tea became a common commodity throughout England. Today, we live in a global village. Literally, any flavor of tea is available to you. The most common English teas are “Earl Grey” and “English Breakfast.” These black teas are mild and complement milk, cream, and sugars well. In recent years, the popularity of daring herbal flavors has increased. It is now possible to find such flavors as “Ginger Peach,” “Honey Ginseng,” and “Mango Ceylon.” Most grocery stores offer a variety of teas from which to choose. Select a variety of tea flavors to offer to your guests. Generally, tea bags are used because of their convenience. However, one can find tea that is loose and will need to be strained through a tea strainer or tea ball. Many sterling silver patterns feature tea strainers. Some common examples of tea strainers can be found in
Towle’s “Old Master,”
Wallace’s “Grand Baroque,” and
Reed and Barton’s “Francis I.” If you are interested in individual tea strainers, then consider
Oneida’s “Everlasting” and
Wallace’s “Waverly.” In addition to sterling and silverplate tea strainers, many china patterns feature this unique piece. If you are looking for a porcelain tea strainer, then consider
Royal Albert’s “Old Country Roses,”
Arabia of Finland’s “Karelia,” or
Royal Crown Derby’s “Derby Posies.”
Helping you present tea, cakes, sandwiches, cookies, and English biscuits is something at which Replacements, Ltd. is best. Our unique product offers you an astounding variety of ways to present tea and its accompaniments. Almost all china patterns include a tea or coffee pot. If you do not own the tea or coffee pot to your china service, then be sure to peruse our inventory and complete your service today! High tea is truly an English tradition. There is no better complement to the antiquated ritual than selecting an opulent English pattern from a company such as
Royal Doulton, or
Royal Crown Derby. On a tea or coffee table, provide your guests with a tea pot of hot water, dessert or salad plates, tea cups, coffee pot (if coffee is served), a variety of teas from which to choose, linen napkins, teaspoons, tea strainers and/or tea balls. If you are serving sandwiches, cakes, or biscuits, then you will need a serving tray or plate. It is important to provide a place to dispose of used teabags and tea leaves. Many hollowware patterns provide a waste bowl, a place in which tea leaves and tea bags can be disposed. Replacements, Ltd. offers all an extensive variety of patterns in which these items can be found.
Sterling and Silverplate Hollowware
Nothing will astound your guests like a sterling or silverplated hollowware tea service. Replacements, Ltd. offers an array of these beautiful items to help you impress your guests. Most tea services provide all of the items necessary to host an elaborate tea party, including the tea pot, coffee pot, hot water kettle, burner, stand, waste bowl, creamer, sugar, and tray. Be sure to browse through our
sterling hollowware section, and find a tea set that is right for you. If you do not find the tea service for which you are looking, then feel free to call one of our knowledgeable associates. Call us at
9:00 am – 10:00 pm ET, 7 days
Additional Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Formal Tea
Formal tea parties are the perfect opportunity to feature floral themes. Just about every company who has ever produced china or porcelain, has produced a floral themed pattern. Some companies focus expressly on floral designs.
Haviland China Co. has literally produced thousands of beautiful floral patterns, including
“Varenne.” Patterns such as these are perfect for a formal tea party and beautiful when found on a linen tablecloth or overlooking a garden. Another way to impress your guests at your tea is to feature a chintz pattern. The word “chintz” was first used in 1614. Flower covered fabrics being imported from India became known as chintz. Today, chintz patterns remain immensely collectible. Replacements, Ltd. offers a variety of chintz patterns from which to choose, including
Minton’s “Haddon Hall,”
Royal Winton’s “Old Cottage Chintz,” and