Downton Living: How to Step Up Your Tea Ritual

Kitchen Daily 1/9/14

The DVDs were on your library reserve list for months and you never gave up hope that you'd be next. You refused to read the spoilers when last season's finale premiered in the U.K., and the concept of a day revolving around getting dressed, taking a nap and eating has you more than a little intrigued. Yes, you're a Downton Abbey fan. But how to bring some Downton living to your home now that you're in a full Season 4 frenzy?

The biggest learning from all that Downton watching? Do tea right. Americans threw the most famous tea party of all time and yet we haven't mastered the art of all things tea. We pay so much attention to coffee and buzzing through the week that we neglect the fine details that make drinking tea both a ritual and an excuse to slow down and relax.

Here's what you need to know to make the perfect cup of tea and throw a classic tea party. The Dowager Countess of Grantham would approve. And please take a breath. Downton Abbey may very well live beyond season 5.

6 Tips for a Perfect Cup of Tea:

  • Before you begin, you need the basics. A tea service is defined by a teapot and cover, coffee pot and cover, sugar bowl and tongs, tea cups and saucers, coffee cups, milk jug and cover, a slop bowl, spoon tray, teapot stand and tea canisters.
  • Keep tea hot. Fill a ceramic teapot with hot water, then pour the water out; this prevents the teapot from absorbing all the warmth of the tea water.
  • Fresh is best. Always store tea in an airtight container and always use fresh water to brew tea.
  • Know your measurements. For flaked tea, use one heaping teaspoonful per serving, plus "one for the pot," and about a cup water per teaspoon of tea.
  • Timing is everything. Steep tea for about five minutes before serving.
  • Choose wisely. You can add lemon or milk but not both. If you choose milk, add it to your tea cup first so it mixes better.

Fun Facts About Tea Service:

  • There's such a thing called "nursery tea." That's when children enjoyed tea with their nanny's without a parent in site. They enjoyed seasonal food like toasted bread and crumpets in the winter and sponge cake and jam in the summer.
  • "Drawing Room" teas were elegant affairs for the owners of the house. They enjoyed crustless sandwiches, individual cakes and teas from China and India.
  • Tomatoes, egg salad and sardines were common sandwich fillings. Biscuits, crumpets and shortbreads were also served with cream, and seed and sponge cake were enjoyed. Even fruitcake was served.


Click on the slideshow above for some classic afternoon tea recipes.

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What to Do With That Fruitcake (It's Not What You Think)

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