Our foreign master, albeit only temporary ones, did influence a lot of changes to the socio-cultural system of our country. They also brought the tradition of drinking tea and with it, a host of rules and traditions to be observed while serving and consuming the beverage. With our lives becoming increasingly hectic, it would be considered a light hearted indulgence to set aside a little time for gentility, regardless of how far we have come from our colonial history. With no further delay, let us dive in to the basics that one needs to know before throwing a little tea party.
First, and foremost, set up an invitation. A concept that can be perceived as archaic now, with the advent of social media and cell phones, an invitation, however, serves a twofold purpose. It lets the guest know where exactly the tea party is being held and, with a little subtlety, informs them of the attire to wear. Second, it performs the function of letting your guest know whether they should bring a little extra something, ranging from tiny bites to cutlery that would only improve the decor of your private party.
Next, pay a little attention to setting the table. One does not need to go about it with unbridled extravagance. A simple white tablecloth, without any stains or tears, accompanied by the appropriate cutlery, will do. You don’t need bone china either. Basic cups in sombre colours, teaspoons, saucers, plates for serving snacks, a sugar bowl along with sugar tongs (for sugar cubes), a tea strainer (if the tea leaves have been directly steeped into the pot) and a dish for serving lemons, are all the minimum necessities. Moreover, if it’s just a small gathering of friends, you need only set one table. The casual intimacy would only be complimented by the elegance of an actual tea party. Once everybody is seated, the host or the hostess must make sure that the cups are full and the guests have everything at their disposal.
Now, that we have the basics established, it would be wise to elaborate on some traditions that are considered appropriate while drinking tea. In a social gathering, it is considered rude to hold your cup with your pinkie finger extended. Grip the handle with your index finger, while placing your thumb on the top of the handle. Take your middle finger and place it under the handle, letting the cup rest securely, without the fear of the tea spilling. Your ring finger and your little finger should be curved towards your wrist.
Earlier, it was traditional for milk to be poured in before the tea was poured into the cup. This was due to the delicate material that cups were made of. Pouring hot liquid in to such delicate china would instantly damage the cups. However, times have changed and we do not face the same problem anymore. Let the milk be poured in after the tea is poured into the cup. This will give you the benefit of knowing how much milk to put in depending on the colour of the tea.
Furthermore, put in a napkin by the side of every guest’s cups’. Remember to use the napkin as ‘only’ a napkin and not a handkerchief. Do not use the napkin to wipe your face or to wipe away any lipstick that may have come off while you were drinking your tea. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom instead and clean yourself up.
Finally, do not worry too much if things go slightly off-track. It is perfectly admissible to spill some tea accidently. After all, you are with your friends. Just don’t empty your entire cup on that spotless white tablecloth.