Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Afternoon Tea" by Ellen Easton

Among the tea goodies in the gift package I received from Bernideen was the book "Afternoon Tea: Tips, Terms and Traditions" by Ellen Easton. I was especially pleased to win this book, because for years I've seen the name "Ellen Easton" regarded as a top tea expert, yet I've never been able to find one of her books!

This small paperback (from 2006 ) was a delight to read, and I like the fact there is information for newcomers to afternoon tea as well as those of us who have been enjoying the afternoon tea ritual for years. The book includes a tea terms glossary, a tea glossary, a tea timeline, a section on tea and silver, names of tea from around the world, instructions on how to clean a teapot and much more. Since she has served as a tea consultant for hotels such as The Plaza in New York City, I assume she knows whereof she speaks. I was also intrigued with her explanation of the order of food placement for a three-tiered server. She says the top tier is for scones, the middle for sandwiches and savories, and the bottom tier for sweets. Why? During the 1800s, she says, the old-fashioned stands had domed lids to keep the scones warm, and the dome would fit only on the top tier. Makes perfect sense! At afternoon tea today, though, I usually find the order is sweets on top, scones in the middle and savories/sandwiches on the bottom, and we are advised to eat our way to the top, which also seems a sensible order of placement. (What order do you find when you go to tearooms? What order do you prefer?)

There's tons of great information packed into this little book, but my favorite discovery was of a mother-daughter connection of which I'd been unaware. After years of reading tea books and magazines, I knew the name "Reva Paul" belonged to a woman who was the queen of decorative sugar cubes, some of which are pictured in the two photos above. Turns out she is Ellen Easton's mother, so clearly the apple didn't fall very far from the tree!

6 comments:

Belinda said...

The tea tier order was very interesting to me . At our church teas we place our warm scones on the bottom at the last minute and encourage folks to "eat Up" Sandwiches and savories in middle ,sweets on top.

Jason Witt said...

Ooh. I like the looks of the teacup-shaped cookie in the photo in this book.

Marilyn said...

Now this is a book I haven't heard of. You are always educating me on things I have missed in tea.

ChaChaneen said...

Stopped by to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving if I'm not able to visit before Thursday! A bounty of blessings for you and your family Angela.

Anonymous said...

I serve the scones, savories and finally the desserts. I used to serve the savories, scones then desserts, but by the end I've had way too much sweets. I like the sweets on the top so the server looks pretty all the way through the tea. I see no reason to follow a tradition if it doesn't work for you.

Ellen Easton said...

Hello to all. Your site is beautiful and informative. Thank you Angela for your kind comments. I agree with your readers, do not be a tea snob. Before building a house, one first places the foundation. The same is true for the genre of afternoon tea, once one understands the traditions one is free to explore the countless possibilities in which to entertain. Reva Paul, approaching age 84, is still in business creating her masterpieces of edible art. I am proud and privileged to be her daughter. The world of tea should be powered by friendship. Please keep in touch. Ellen Easton