Afternoon tea like a Brit

Si è conclusa appena pochi giorni fa nel Regno Unito l’afternoon tea week, ovvero la settimana dedicata al tè del pomeriggio, una delle più tipiche tradizioni britanniche.
Sebbene la passione degli inglesi per il tè risalga addirittura alla seconda metà del 1600, il rito dell’afternoon tea ha radici più recenti. Fu, infatti, intorno al 1840 che la settima Duchessa di Bedford, nonché amica intima della Regina Vittoria, si inventò una sorta di mini-pasto pomeridiano a base di tè, piccoli sandwich e dolcetti per spezzare la fame in attesa della cena, che all’epoca veniva servita intorno alle 8 di sera, piuttosto tardi per i canoni britannici.
Inizialmente la Duchessa consumava lo spuntino da sola nell’intimità del suo salotto privato, ma poi prese l’abitudine di invitare alcune amiche ad unirsi a lei per la merenda e, in men che non si dica, l’afternoon tea divenne un importante appuntamento nell’alta società londinese, accolto con grande entusiasmo anche dalla Regina, che lo istituzionalizzò.
Ma in cosa consiste e come viene servito l’afternoon tea? Scopriamolo insieme dalle parole dell’esperto di etichetta inglese William Hanson grazie a questo video della BBC.

“What could be more British than a classic afternoon tea? Here’s my quick guide to the etiquette, so we can make sure you’re eating elegantly.
Now the first thing is the tea. Loose-leaf tea if you know what’s good for you, which means you’ll need a strainer to catch the tea leaves. And, when we stir our tea, we go back and forth in a delicate gentle six-twelve, six-twelve motion rather than round and round, because it will prevent splashing, looks a lot more elegant and it dissolves any sugar we may have added a lot quicker.
Now onto the food and we start with the sandwiches. Crusts cut off, of course, and as small as possible. In a private house these will be small squares, in a hotel they’ll be rectangular.
Now the best part of an afternoon tea: the scones. And yes, we do say “scone” not “scone”. Now never use a knife to cut into your scone to open it, instead we break it in half. When it comes to layering your scones, it really doesn’t matter which way around the jam and the cream go, unless you are in the southwest of England. The Cornish insist that the cream goes last, the Devonians insist the cream goes first.
The final course, if you have any room left, is the cakes and pastries. You’ll actually only get one of these in a private house. In the summer it will be a Victoria sponge or in the winter it’ll be a fruit cake. You can either use your fingers or, if you want to spare sticky fingers, a small fork.
Hopefully my quick guide means that you’re now able to enjoy afternoon tea the correct way.”

First of all, let’s take a look at some of the vocabulary used:
strainer = a kitchen utensil with a lot of holes in it for separating a liquid from solid pieces
scone = a small, round cake that is similar to bread, made from flour, milk, and a little fat
way around = a particular order or position that something should be in

(to) stir = (to) mix a liquid or other substance with a continuous movement of a spoon, a stick, etc.
(to) prevent = (to) keep from happening
(to) layer = (to) put a layer on top of another
(to) spare = (to) avoid

onto = used to change to or begin talking about a different subject

loose-leaf = not in tea bags
sticky = covered with a substance that sticks easily to other things

(to) make sure = (to) take special care to do something

Now, let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts of a perfect afternoon tea:

• use loose-leaf tea not tea bags, which means you will need a tea strainer
• stir the tea with a back and forth motion (six-twelve motion), because it prevents splashing, it looks more elegant and it dissolves any sugar much more quickly
• serve the sandwiches as small as possible, cut into squares or rectangles, crust removed
• never cut into your scone with a knife to open it, instead break it in half with your hands
• when you layer your scone, unless you are in the southwest of England, it is not important whether you put the clotted cream or the jam on first
• if you want to avoid sticky fingers, use a small fork to eat the cakes and pastries.

A questo punto, per scoprire come servire una perfetta tazza di tè all’inglese non perdetevi il post The Perfect cup of tea, mentre per preparare un delizioso Victoria sponge andate a vedere il post Recipe – Victoria Sandwiches.

Be’, noi sudditi di Sua Maestà saremo anche un po’ strambi, per parafrasare le parole di Obelix in “Asterix e i Britanni”, ma quando si tratta dell’ora del tè…
Bye for now, j

Janet L. Dubbini

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