Sunday, July 31, 2016

Five O'Clock Tea

image from

“…The ideal hostess makes tea herself in the drawing-room.  A table is equipped with spirit-lamp and shining kettle of silver, aluminium, brass, or copper, and dainty caddy, all laid ready upon a teacloth as fine and as elaborately embroidered as may suit the taste and means of the household.  It gives one a feeling of perfect confidence to see this table laid in readiness, and to note that the preparations are complete, even to the little silver strainer which prevents the leaves from entering the cups.

At many such tables there are three or four infuser spoons for the use of those who like tea made in the cup.  In these days of mal-digestion there are many who regard a teapot as a found of possible disaster, as, indeed, it sometimes is, when the tea is left so long upon the leaves as to extract all their tannin.

Hot cakes are served really hot, and freshly toasted, in the house of the perfect hostess.  Late comers are not offered them in a discouraging condition, dried up and hardened round the edges by having been kept hot in the oven.  The oven is no place for hot cakes.  Small plates are left ready for such as like to eat these cakes by the aid of the pretty little knives and forks made expressly for use at tea.  Some callers still prefer the saucer only, according to Victorian etiquette.  Hot toast, brown all over and well buttered, is indispensable to a good tea in cold weather.  In summer its place is taken by strawberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, or whatever fruit may be in season.  Fruit knives and forks are laid in a little heap ready for anyone choosing fruit

Sandwiches of various sorts and bread-and-butter, brown and white, are the indispensable portions of fare provided.  Cakes, petits fours, and delicate litte sweet biscuits come next, and the thoughtful chatelaine will not neglect to provide the plain, dry biscuits to which so many of her friends are limited by medical advice, or by the counsels of their beauty doctor…”

Every Woman’s Encyclopedia, Vol III, ca 1910-12, available as a free download (one of a total of seven volumes) from the Internet Archive.


Sam said...

How lovely this sounds!

Bunnykins said...

Such a lovely book. Did you see the home nursing articles? And the needlework!
I still have the remains of my grandmother's tea set, made somewhere between 1895 and 1920, all Victorian pink and blue little flowers and a bit of gilding left, which she prob got second hand as she was the original bargain shopper. Thanks for the link.

Lady Anne said...

It all seems so civilized! We've lost so much over the last century, I think.

My grandmother had a tea set from the 920s - the cups are a sort of metallic teal on the outside, and a soft orange on the inside. So far, I've found four cups, six saucers and eight plates. Considering the way my mum packed things, I'm hoping the rest of the set shows up one of these days.

Shay said...

This does sound lovely -- if you have a good caterer.

Shay said...

Bunny, I have read all seven volumes. They are an amazing look at the past.

I think there must be half a dozen articles (at least one per volume) on how to get married by emigrating to someplace like Canada or Australia, where there weren't enough women.

Bunnykins said...

Canada has been importing brides since the French first settled here, since les filles du roi (King's daughters) were induced to come here in the late 1600s.
I'm guessing men to marry were scarce in the UK in 1910-12 after the Boer War, occupation of India, and all that Empire securing duty while lots of young British immigrant men here couldn't find brides willing to live in a small colony without much polite society.

Lady Anne said...

Young women also came to the Colonies in droves in the very late 1600s and the early 1700s. In days of arranged marriages, the good looking and rich were chosen first, and the poor and homely left at home to take care of Mum and Dad as spinsters. They came here to find a husband, and were frequently auctioned off to pay for their passage. They didn't seem to mind, and considered going for a good price a compliment - and they could say No to the highest bidder, which was a big change from Merrie Olde England.

Bunnykins said...

Lady Anne - That sounds like a remarkable tea set. Such wonderful colours!

Sam said...

Lady Anne - this is called Lusterware. I have a tea set with 4 cups & saucers. Earl Grey tea looks lovely in the cups.

Anonymous said...

A woman who could put that together while swanning around in floor-length white (!) voile probably *did* have a good caterer . . . only she was called the cook or the kitchen-maid.
Sounds yummy, though. Yes, I must have tea-and-buttered-toast, the first cold, rainy day in . . . probably October, even though I am a confirmed coffee-drinker.