Tea time: Everything you need to know about England's favorite tradition

News 6 royal reporters show what not to do during tea time

By Brianna Volz - Web producer

CELEBRATION, Fla. - Anyone looking to hang with the royals should, first and foremost, know the ins and outs of England's daily tradition: tea time.

There's much to know about the country's favorite mini-meal, so let's get started.

When did the tradition begin?
According to AfternoonTea.co.uk, what Britain currently knows as "afternoon tea" originates from the Duchess of Bedford's idea to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner with a light meal that includes tea, cakes and sandwiches. The practice, introduced in 1840 and used to solve the afternoon hunger pains, took off and became a sort of social occasion among the the upper classes, which continue to this day, as it has become more popular than ever, the website said.

What do I wear to a tea party?
If you don't want to royally embarrass yourself, make sure you're dressed for the occasion. Although the dress code has become more relaxed over time, it's still unacceptable to show up looking shabby. Gentlemen should wear trousers or fancy jeans with a collared shirt. Jackets and ties are not required, unless, of course, otherwise specified by the host. Scuffed shoes and sneakers are unacceptable.

Ladies, it's the perfect time to break out your favorite sundress. Maxi dresses are popular and can look either casual or formal, depending on which you're going for, and are often worn with cardigans.

If you're attending a tea room with a theme, like the "Alice in Wonderland" theme shown in the video above, you can dress accordingly. Just be sure to ask about themes ahead of time.

What should I order?
Before ordering, it's important to know what kind of tea session you're attending. Though Americans and other people who aren't native to Britain often use the term "afternoon tea" to describe a tea session, there's much more to it than that. Knowing which type of tea session you're attending can actually determine what you'll be eating.

The following tea terms, broken down by afternoontea.co.uk, should help:

  • Cream tea: a session in which guests usually consume scones with cream and preserves with their tea.
  • Afternoon tea: a session in which sandwiches, scones and cakes are served with tea.
  • High tea: a term that is commonly used by visitors from overseas to describe afternoon tea, but actually is used to describe a completely different meal that typically includes savory and heartier foods and has historically been taken by the lower classes.
  • Royal tea: a session in which afternoon tea becomes just a bit classier by adding a glass of champagne; typically enjoyed to celebrate special occasions.

Keeping those things in mind, you can now choose a tea. If you're indecisive, have someone like Eric, who helped royal reporters Loren Korn and Brianna Volz when visiting the Celebration Tea Room, point you in the right direction. Loose leaf is recommended to maximize the flavor of your tea.

How do I properly prepare my tea?
You'll start with brewing it. How long does that take? It does depend on your preferences, but three to six minutes is recommended. The antioxidants released when brewing the tea for longer periods of time can have many health benefits, but, if brewed for too long, can damage the taste of the tea. Use an hourglass timer as shown in the video above for perfect timing.

Once it's brewed, pour the tea into your cup using the strainer over the cup to catch the loose herbs. Otherwise, you're bound to have a few stragglers left in your tea. Trust me, we learned the hard way.
When you've poured your desired amount of tea, add sugar, honey or other add-ins to taste, grab a tea sandwich or scone and enjoy.

Are there any etiquette rules I should know?
There are a few to keep in mind during tea time. If you order scones, cut them in half or into even smaller pieces before adding cream or jam to enjoy. That lessens the chance that you could spill or drop some and make a mess.

Do not ever dip your biscuit into your tea if you're dining in public. If you want to do that in the privacy of your own home, go for it. But do it there and only there unless you'd like to be considered rude.
Finally, contrary to popular belief, you should not raise your pinky finger while bringing your tea cup to your mouth. It not only serves no point, but, according to Eric, it is actually considered to be silly and is one of the most common tea-time faux paus.

Most importantly, know that tea time is meant to be fun for everyone, so relax and enjoy it. Also know that you don't have to hop across the pond to have a tea party of your own. Tea rooms like the one in Celebration can be found in Central Florida or thrown in the comfort of your own home.

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