There are many ideas about tea etiquette and the when and how tea was first made popular in England. Charles II grew up in exile at The Hague and thus was exposed to the custom of drinking tea. He married Catharine of Braganza who was Portuguese and who also enjoyed tea. Catharine had grown up drinking tea in Portugal - the preferred beverage of the time. It is said that when she arrived in England to marry Charles II in 1662, she brought with her a casket of tea. She became known as England's first tea-drinking queen.
In England, she invited her friends into her bedroom chamber to share tea with her. In the 18th century, it was custom for highborn ladies to receive callers with their morning tea while still lounging in bed. Queen Anne drank tea so regularly that she substituted a large bell-shaped silver teapot for the tiny Chinese teapots. The earliest tea service dates from her reign.
Coffeehouses were popular in the 18th century. Women were forbidden to enter them. In 1675 members of the government persuaded Charles II to suppress them as centers of sedition. The men were so outraged that the king canceled the proclamation. Coffeehouses were also called “penny universities,” in reference to the conversation they bred and the penny admittance fee.
During the 18th century, tea gardens became popular. The whole idea of the garden was for ladies and gentlemen to take their tea together outdoors surrounded by entertainers. They attracted everybody including Mozart and Handel. The tea gardens made tea all the more fashionable to drink, plus they were important places for men and women to meet freely.
While drinking tea as a fashionable event is credited to Catharine of Braganza, the actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a new social event some time in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Jane Austen hints of afternoon tea as early as 1804 in an unfinished novel.
It is said that the afternoon tea tradition was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. She requested that light sandwiches be brought to her in the late afternoon because she had a “sinking feeling” during that time because of the long gap between meals. She began to invite others to join her and thus became the tradition.
Just like the royalty and upper class did in the original tea parties, it is important to use proper etiquette when attending a formal tea party. Here are a few tea party etiquette tips to remember: