Tea services – traditional vs. modern vs. basic

Afternoon tea

In the U.S., the final show of Downton Abbey was shown a few weeks ago. And it seems that an entire continent is going through withdrawal (we know those of you in Great Britain experienced this a few months ago). So just in time to provide an emergency proper English fix,  Serious Eats has published, “A Short Introduction to Afternoon Tea in London.

The author explains that after being asked to meet a friend for afternoon tea, “my first thought is not where, but what kind.” She then explains  the differences among traditional, modern, and basic tea services. Simply put, they are:

  • Traditional: the classic, old-fashioned, full-service, white glove teas
  • Modern: the full tea (savory, sweets, and scones), but in a less formal setting where the food is often more contemporary
  • Basic: very casual teas where you can opt for just pastries and tea

The differences are explained in detail, along with some suggested destinations, but obviously, to cure a Downton Abbey fix, the Traditional is the only way to go.

Photo credit: Kathy YL Chan

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  • PatriciaAnn  on  March 13, 2013

    Great article. And they have a link to Tea places in NYC.
    Sadly, I have had to go gluten-free and that has limited my tea outings. Hopefully, tea establishments will soon offer gluten-free Tea's.
    But, at least I participate in a monthly, at home, ladies tea group. The hostess pre-arranges the menu to coordinate with her theme. We each sign-up to bring one dish. And then we show up the next month with our savory or sweet. The hostess makes the scones and tea. It's formal afternoon, sit in the living room, relaxing Tea. Complete with china linens and lace.
    I hosted an Anne of Green Gables Tea, and a Relax with Me a Make-Ahead Tea…for Christmas. Other tea's have been: Harry Potter, Italian Mardi Gras, Jane Austen, Dicken's Christmas, Little Women…and so much more. Teatime is my favorite relaxation next to walking in gardens 🙂

  • FieenaZ  on  March 14, 2013

    PatriciaAnn, Try an afternoon tea at a Ritz-Carlton. Let them know in advance that you are gluten-free and, at least in my experience, they will accommodate you. I had a great luck with them in several cities and you do not have to be a guest there by the way. Your ladies tea group sounds lovely. It is an excellent idea I may borrow.

  • PatriciaAnn  on  March 14, 2013

    FeienaZ, Thanks for the Ritz-Carlton tip. I'll give them a try. I'm looking for a place for my daughter's next birthday and if they can accomodate my gluten-free needs in their NYC location, the Ritz may be perfect. I'm glad you found the tea group info helpful. A bit more detail… Usually, the hostess sets the dining room table with a cloth (linen or lace), and all our dishes are set up around the table by their respective place card. This works well because each lady knows where to put her dish when she arrives. We have 3 pots of tea at every Tea, with one being a decaf for those who desire it. The three pots are set out simultaneously and refilled as needed. Once a year, we have a sign-up for the coming year's hostesses and helpers. The rule is sign-up to be a hostess for one month or sign-up to be a helper for two months. The helper is the one who makes more tea, as needed. The helper also helps clean up, as the end. Each lady is responsible for bringing her own teacup. The hostess provides plates, silverware, napkins, tea, lemon, milk, scones, jam, & clotted cream. Each lady also brings the dish she signed-up for at the last month's tea. Most of us have a theme to our tea's, a few just pick out recipes. Both ways are nice. A couple of times, the hostess picked all the recipes from one cookbook. I really liked those Teas because it helped to really know the book's recipes. I hope you are able to start a group of your own. It's a lovely delight I truly enjoy.

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