“A Guide To Afternoon Tea”


Taking one's proper cup of tea with biscuits is a hallmark of civilization around the world in Great Britain.


Historically speaking, the customs of Afternoon Tea date back to the British Raj, circa 4 p.m. This was a time when Englishmen (who did not sleep during the mid-day sun like everyone else) were feeling a bit tired by the late afternoon and needed a pick-me-up right about when everyone else had just gotten up for the second time that day.


Tea comes from a number of distinct regions around the world. Each with its own characteristics:


The most popular region for tea is in the Chinese restaurant. It is often served in a communal pot, and it is brown and warm. The inhabitants are often found drinking tea at all hours of the day and night with the exception of breakfast. No Chinese restaurant is ever open for breakfast. This is because in China, breakfast time is in the middle of the night, or something like that. (Western science can prove this assertion with a mere periscope.)


The next most popular region for tea is in British films from the late 1800s onward. It is often served by someone whose name we don't know, and it is grey and warm. (Most of these films are in black & white, so I'll just hedge my bets on the color here.) Since the peerage had nothing better to do with their time, they often appear in these films, thus giving us the name for the most popular tea in Great Britain and loyalist America, "Earl Grey". 


The American South has a special affinity for tea. It is often served by your neighbor, and it is brown and cold. It is also cloyingly sweet. Considering that they add lemon, this is actually lemonade with lots of ice -- and a bit of tea.


The custom of Afternoon Tea has continued to move around the globe until it stopped for a rest at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston and subsequently spilled into several nearby hotels and a private library. (It has been reported that the local waters are excellent for tea.)


One should always eat before-hand so as not to appear hungry. In fact, you may do anything to distract attention from your dreadful eating habit -- short of crime.


Keep the conversation flowing like the tea. If either spills on someone, ignore the mess and continue whatever you last left off saying. Drawing attention to a mess is worse than the mess itself. (This is also true for the aforementioned crime.)


Most importantly, one must maintain a look of thoughtful interest while listening to one's companions prattle endlessly about the conversational discussion. 


Though this may be much harder than it appears, it will never be as hard as that half-eaten scone on your plate -- consider yourself lucky it wasn't yours.


Pip Pip, Cheerio!