At the Tea Table
~Taking Your Seat
Each guest will stand behind the chair at their place setting and enter their chair from the right-hand side of the chair, after the hostess has been seated.
When you are a guest in someone's home, be prepared for the custom of Grace before the meal. If you don't practice this custom, simply sit quietly out of respect to the hostess. Grace is usually said by the hostess or a guest may be asked to say Grace.
Grace is usually said after everyone is seated and before anything is touched on the table. Don't pick up your serviette/napkin or take a sip of water until Grace is said.
The napkin should be placed on top of the plate, unless food is on the plate when the guests arrive at the table; then, the napkin should be placed to the left of the fork. The napkin should be folded with the closed edge to the right and the open edge to the left or placed in a napkin ring. At tea time, serviettes are used. The serviette is a tea napkin, 12" square. It is picked up and unfolded on the lap, not above the table, only after the hostess places her serviette on her lap. A tea serviette is opened completely. Proper etiquette dictates that you blot your lipstick with a tissue before using any cloth napkin at the table. When using a serviette, blot your lips and don't use the serviette as a handkerchief. If you leave the table temporarily, place your serviette on your chair, not on the table. At the end of the tea, the hostess will pick up her serviette and place it loosely on the table, to the left of the tea plate. You will then place your serviette loosely to the left of your tea plate.
~Will you be "Mother?"
Being "Mother" goes back to the Queen Victoria era when mothers traditionally poured the tea for family and guests. It is considered an honor to be "Mother." The pourer should have sterling social graces and no one should pour for more than 15-20 minutes. The pourer or "Mother" will hold the teacup and saucer in her left hand and ask each guest, "Do you prefer your tea weak or strong?" If weak tea is preferred, pour the teacup about one-half full, add the hot water and then ask, "With sugar, lemon, or milk?" If strong tea is preferred, pour the teacup three-fourths full, and then ask, "With sugar, lemon, or milk?" You will only place a teaspoon on the saucer if the guest request sugar/milk. Remember that you don't want to use lemon and milk together as the acid from the lemon will curdle the milk. Also, please remember to use milk instead of cream. If the guest request sugar, ask "One lump or two?" Should you add the milk first or last? The milk should be added after the tea has been poured. Just remember that the Queen of England adds her milk last.
Tea is never passed around the table; the pourer should hand the tea directly to the guest. And, it is more polite to ask guests if they would like tea, rather than asking if they would like MORE tea.
Tomorrow, I will address the styles of dining--American and Continental. Please stop by again!