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Going Out to Tea

Tea Etiquette

As pleasant as it is to host a tea at home, going out to tea is one of life's most delightful pastimes. A hotel lounge or tearoom may use various titles to describe its tea offerings. Menus offer Afternoon Tea, Cream Tea, Light Tea, Full Tea, and Royal Tea. You will also encounter an offering of High Tea in certain establishments in America.

Service Defined

Service describes the manner of presenting various dishes. Table service also takes into account the ensemble of objects that are used at the table: linens, plates, glasses, and flatware. The utensils required to serve a special part of the meal are called "services" -tea service, coffee service, dessert service, fruit service, and so forth. The French call the personnel of the restaurant who are responsible for serving meals the "service.”

Cream Tea

A light repast that originated in the south­western part of England around Devon and Cornwall, it calls only for some scones, Jam, clotted cream, and choice of tea.

Light Tea

A lighter version of afternoon tea. The menu includes scones, sweets, and choice of tea.

Full Tea

A complete four-course menu includes finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, and dessert, and choice of tea. The addition of finger sand­wiches (savories) as a first course gives this tea the title of “full tea.”

Royal Tea

Choice of tea and a four-course menu of finger sandwiches, scones, sweets, dessert, and a glass of champagne or sherry. The addition of a glass of champagne or sherry gives this tea the distinction of being called "royal tea."

High Tea

The term "high tea" is often misused by those who like to gild afternoon tea to make it seem exclusive and refined. Consequently, both consumers and dispensers of tea often mistakenly tack the word "high" onto what should be simply called tea or afternoon tea.

Although often confused with afternoon tea, high tea is not a dainty affair, neither is it synonymous with highbrow. The distinction is important if you wish to convey a certain degree of sophistication. High tea is NOT finger sand­wiches, scones, and sweets. That, of course, is tea or afternoon tea.

High tea is a hearty, simple, sit-down meal that originated during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. High tea was the main meal of the day for workers who returned home very hungry after a long, hard day in the fields, shops, factories, and mines.

Everything is placed on the table, family style, and dishes are passed from person to person. The menu offers hot or cold hearty and traditional foods such as meat pies, Welsh rarebit, sausage, cold meats, breads, cheese, jam, butter, relishes, desserts, fruits, and tea. High tea was also called "meat tea," because meat was usually served.

One may offer "high tea" in the form of a buffet supper, and alcohol may also be served.

Tea in a Hotel Lounge

You will often be seated on a sofa or an overstuffed chair. A low table (coffee table) in front of the sofa will hold the tea foods, cups and saucers, and pot(s) of tea. You may eat in the same manner as you would at a regular table. Should you sit back in your seat and there is an uncom­fortable distance between you and your teacup, be sure to lift both the cup and saucer from the table as previously described.


- , Editor, Etiquette Scholar

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