Due to the new popularity of Afternoon Tea in the Brandywine Valley area and indeed in Wilmington, many people have joined in on this cultural trend from the past. The Downton Abbey series has seemed to add to the flames of desire to hold elegant teas. Companies and non-profits including hotels, caterers, party planners, and protocol and etiquette “experts” join in providing venues and information about how to hold a tea.
The art of having tea, and it is an art if done properly, is something that is common and understood in places like Great Britain, Scotland, and Ireland; however, here in America we have lost the knowledge of what that means. The communities in the Brandywine Valley search back into their cultural past to find new and exciting ways of holding elegant tea.
One of the things that is completely misunderstood, is the different types of Tea "Parties" that one can have. Many hotels are now offering what they call "Afternoon Tea" at lunchtime, and they offer a full course luncheon menu replete with soup, entrees, etc. This is not an Afternoon Tea. It is a "Luncheon Tea", for lack of a better title, as it is really luncheon with tea as the beverage. Some call what is really an "Afternoon Tea" by the name of "High Tea", which is really a full meal, not a light repast.
Here is a list some commonly known Teas that are held in the Brandywine Valley area. Naturally, tea is the preferred beverage of choice, however a good hostess always offers an alternative beverage such as coffee or hot chocolate, or with iced tea the companion beverage tends to be lemonade. Many times late afternoon teas may also serve sherry as an aperitif.
Teas generally run between the hours of 2-6 depending on the type of Tea. Special Teas such as a Morning Tea or Luncheon Tea would be anywhere from 10-2, and a Fireside Tea would be from 8-10 at night. Just as a special note, Black and Oolong teas are offered with sugar, milk (not cream), or lemon (some people may want honey). White and Green teas are taken plain (although if a guest wants the sugar, milk, lemon, or honey, it would be rude to refuse them their choice). Rooibos and Herbal teas are technically not teas, but tisanes, and should also be taken plain (although again that is your guest's choice). In the menus below, other than the Cream Tea where only scones should be offered (thus the name Cream Tea for the cream scone), the scone course can consist of not only scones, but crumpets, small fruit pastries, tea biscuits, miniature muffins, quick breads, and the like. The savory course consists of finger foods such as tea sandwiches, small meat tarts, miniature quiches, and similar items. The sweets course consists of small bite-sized sweet desserts, such as miniature fruit tarts, cookies, mini cupcakes, petite fours, mini cream puffs, etc. A Dessert Tea is usually some larger sweet such as a cake, pie, or individual bowls of things such as trifle, pudding parfaits, etc. The courses within each tea are offered in the order listed below.
Morning Tea - This could be a Cream Tea (see below), or you could have crumpets, coffee cake, doughnuts, or any other breakfast type pastry with tea.
Cream Tea - This Tea can be offered any time of day and consists of scones with jam, curd, and clotted cream.
Light Tea - This Tea is a two-course meal consisting of scones (with condiments) and a sweet.
Afternoon Tea - This is the most commonly known Tea name. It consists of savories, scones, and sweets.
Full Tea - This consists of savories, scones, sweets, and a dessert.
Royal Tea - This is a full Tea with the added beverage of champagne, sherry, or a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage along with the tea.
Dessert Tea - Sweets and desserts are served.
High Tea - A complete sit-down meal served at 6 o'clock with tea. (The name High Tea does not have to do with being more formal, but with the height of the table. Other types of teas are generally served from tea tables, which tend to be lower in the manner of a coffee table. High Tea is taken at a kitchen or dining room table, which is high, thus the name High Tea.)
Fireside Tea - An informal home tea where guests toast their own bread, crumpets, etc. over an open hearth while sipping tea.
Garden Tea - A spring or summer Afternoon Tea in the setting of a garden, in which iced tea and lemonade are served in place of hot tea.
Luncheon Tea - known in most hotels as an Afternoon Tea, this is a true luncheon, possibly with soup and entree, served with tea.
Children's Tea - This is a tea designed for children. It generally consists of children friendly sandwiches, possibly scones, but more preferably a muffin, and a sweet along with specially flavored teas or hot chocolate.
Evening Terrace Tea - An outside evening tea held on the terrace or patio. This could possibly be a High Tea or Dessert Tea.
Themed Teas - These teas can consist of any of the above teas with a theme that permeates the entire event from food to decorations. This can be Shower (wedding or baby) Teas, Birthday Teas, Holiday Teas, Seasonal Teas, Spa Teas, Book of the Month Teas, Red Hat Society Teas, etc.
Tea for One Ceremony - This is a Tea that you do for yourself to just stop and take a break. A whole ceremony can be created around this.