Recently the PG team was asked to deliver a short course on ‘How to Take Afternoon Tea’ to a group of visiting Chinese businessmen and businesswomen. We were delighted to have been asked, there is afterall no finer British institution than taking the time to sit together at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and enjoy a well-brewed pot of Earl Grey and some scones and cakes. Indeed, we tweet an afternoon tea reminder every day, just to make sure our followers do not miss it.
Earlier this month, we delivered the course in the lovely Fortnum & Mason store on Piccadilly, where the staff looked after us very well and provided an excellent tea service. There were 40 attendees, mostly from Shanghai, who were on a fleeting visit to London and keen to experience all that they could of England’s capital city. In fact, that morning they had just come from the Burberry store, where they had thoroughly enjoyed stocking up with clothing and bags from the brand that is so well known overseas.
Our guests had varying levels of English and so we had made sure to book a translator, who did a grand job of translating to an attentive audience.
Once tea was served, Zach Falconer-Barfield (#1PG) took us through the history of afternoon tea, covering its origins and then its ascendance during the Victorian era. Not only did we cover the history of this British meal, but also the history of tea in Britain, which had been in the country for several hundred years before it reached universal popularity in the Victorian era. The progression of tea, ran in parallel with that of the Afternoon Tea meal.
No tea party is complete without the smile, wit and knowledge of Jane Malyon, founder of the English Cream Tea Company, who followed Zach with a thorough run through of the finer points of tea etiquette. This covered everything from how to pour and stir your tea to how to consume the sandwiches. Jane paid particular attention to the delicate art of eating the scone, including how to spread your jam and clotted cream.
We had brought with us a handful of ‘Becoming the Perfect Gentleman’ books, little realising how many of our audience would wish to purchase a signed copy. Next time we will be better prepared with a heap of copies!
Many thanks to our Chinese business expert Yini for the invitation and for organising the visitors, and to Fortnum & Mason for their support and for being such great hosts. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and will be setting up more of these types of courses in the coming months.