Treat yourself at home: afternoon tea

Afternoon tea image
Erica Moore image
Erica Moore © Helen Pugh Photography

Don’t let the lockdown hold you back – plan a posh afternoon tea over Skype or with family in your own home, says Erica Moore

The mental health benefits of connecting with other people are huge and it’s still possible to share the experience with your loved ones even with social distancing or isolation. The world has been turned upside down, but it’s important to remember that this is a vast shared experience and we’re all in this together.

In a strange way, it’s actually a chance to cultivate more social connection. A good way to start is sharing an afternoon tea at home with your loved ones and via video link with other friends and family. We’ve put together some handy tips on how to take afternoon tea.

The tea
Choose proper whole leaf tea. It’s hard to fit proper tea in a tiny tea bag, so choose whole leaf pyramid tea bags or loose leaf tea. Be sure to remove the leaves after brewing to avoid your tea stewing. Yuck! You can add milk to black teas but don’t add it to green, white, oolong, herbal or fruit teas/infusions. It’s not pretty.

Do you put milk in first?
In the old days we had to put milk in first to stop the very delicate china from cracking. Nowadays though, as we’ve got proper china, you should always put milk in last so you can tell how strong it is.

Drinking your tea
If using sugar, be careful to not dip the sugar tongs or spoon into your tea, or family and friends won’t be happy. Use your own teaspoon to stir your tea and then replace it gently on your saucer. Avoid slurping your tea and other loud noises. Slurping has been scientifically proven to agitate others and you may end up with tea poured over your head. You may well have run out of milk – just opt for a green or white tea so you don’t need it.

When it comes to enjoying your properly brewed tea, it’s best to hold your cup and saucer near your chest. Raise your teacup to your mouth to drink and if you spill any the saucer is there to save your blushes. If the tea is too hot to drink, just leave it to cool. Do not blow on the tea.

The cake stand
Your whole afternoon tea should be displayed on a tiered cake stand and should be eaten in this order: sandwiches, then a scone with cream and jam and finally the cakes. A huge part of the joy of afternoon tea is that you get to eat with your fingers. If you get a particularly gooey cake then feel free to use a cake fork, of course.

If you can’t finish everything, just save it for breakfast. No-one’s looking. Sandwiches should be eaten in bite-sized pieces allowing for polite conversation. Under no circumstances should the whole sandwich be consumed in one go.

The scones
Unless you’re Mrs Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances, please don’t pronounce the long ‘o’ in ‘scone.’ It is properly pronounced ‘scon.’

Cream or jam first?
If you’re using Cornish clotted cream, then you’re supposed to spread the jam on first and top it with lashings of clotted cream. Whereas, if you’re using Devonshire clotted cream, it’s more acceptable to layer the cream on first. You can never have enough clotted cream.

Final tips
Take your time. The point of afternoon tea is to connect with your companions. Technically, you should avoid dunking food in your tea (but it’s hard to stop yourself if it’s a great biscuit). There’s no need to dress up these days – PJs are now acceptable attire. If you’re on Skype to your inlaws, just stick a jumper on and keep your legs under the table.

Hopefully now you’re fully prepared to enjoy afternoon tea in style with a new online twist. Remember, we’re all in this together. Slowly our communities are moving online and supporting each other. Even though it’s going to be tough, I’m optimistic we’ll be more aware of how we’re all connected once this situation subsides. Please share your afternoon tea moments and tips with us @eteaket #brewlifeonpurpose on Social Media.

Stay safe and sane, and keep brewing.

If your home attempt turns into a disaster, why not book some afternoon tea vouchers for use when things return to normal.


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