Monday, January 14, 2013

Tea Etiquette – Setting the Table

There are some basics that need to be followed, at least loosely, when it comes to setting up tea service.  Below are the main three set-up's typically seen.  At the end of each description, you will see my notes marked with **A.L.W.**.   While these are ideals that are described, it is rarely seen in daily practice, especially at Bat Rabbit's

Basic Equipment
  • Teapot
  • Tea strainer
  • Creamer for the milk
  • Sugar bowl with sugar tongs
  • Kettle for hot water
  • Plate for lemon slices arranged on a wooden or tin tray
  • Teacups and saucers
  • Utensils for each person: butter knife, fork and teaspoon                          (Optional: spoon, dessert spoon, dessert fork, knife rest)
  • Plates
  • Napkins
  • Platters for food

Buffet Tea
  • The tea tray is placed at one end of the table. 

  • To the right of the tea tray, set out the necessary number of cups, saucers and teaspoons to accommodate each of your guests.

  • Plates, flatware, and napkins are placed on the left.

  • Platters of cakes, pastries, cookies, tea sandwiches and nut breads are also placed to the right of the tray on the table.

**A.L.W.** - You put everything down where you can find a space for it.  Do try to keep things close to one another: the scones with the jam and cream, the tea with the milk and sugar, plates with the napkins and utensils.  Just do your best.

Informal Tea Table Setting         
When seated at a table in a private home or in a tearoom, there should be at each place setting:
  • A knife or butter spreader on the right side of the plate. 

  • A napkin to the left OR a fancy folded napkin to be placed in the center of the place setting. 

  • A fork on the left side, on top of the napkin (if appropriate). 

  • A teaspoon may be placed on the saucer holding the cup or to the right of the knife.

**A.L.W.** - This is pretty normal, although Bat Rabbit’s has the Buffet Tea 75% of the time.

Formal High Tea Table Setting
  • A folded cloth napkin to the left.  The napkin should be folded with the closed edge to the left and the open edge to the right, no exceptions.  This rule applies for rectangular, triangular, and square shape folds.

  • A fork on top of the napkin. 

  • The waste bowl and bread plate, if provided, appear at the upper left of your plate. 

  • On the right side of your plate: the butter knife, serrated edge facing in, along with a spoon, a teaspoon. 

  • The teacup and saucer go on the right, to the right side of the utensils. 

  • Also if provided, directly above your luncheon plate you will see the special dessert fork and spoon, facing different directions, with the dessert plate right above them. 

  • The water glass is placed above the knife.

I so wanted to show you a picture of a formal tea setting but alas, it seems they are indeed very rare in the modern age.  I could not find a single one.  I found several formal table settings but they were lacking the tea cup, saucer and tea spoon.  Maybe I need to set a formal tea table at Bat Rabbit's just for the reference photo.

**A.L.W.** - This all sounds wonderful.  Maybe one day I will actually attend one but it probably will not be at Bat Rabbit's.

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