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!