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t0dd
08-21-2019, 04:54 AM
There's a scene coming up in the MG fantasy I'm writing where the MC's invited over to tea at a classmate's house, and I'd like some advice on it (I know what happens from the "story function" perspective - it's the "everyday details" I need help with).

The essentials:

1. The MC is an 11-year-old American girl who's just moved to England with her family - a small out-of-the-way town, to be precise.

2. The classmate is a girl the same age, who comes from a well-to-do family (her father's one of the more important people in town).

3. They've become "friends of a sort". The MC's solitary by inclination and hasn't been seeking out friends, but the other girl was assigned the task of showing her about at school and they got to know each other well that way. The other girl, much more outgoing, wants to be friends with the MC, and so invites her over for some sort of afternoon tea on the week-end. (The MC might have normally turned the invitation down, but she's after a mischievous shape-shifting trickster sprite who's running loose and has singled out the other girl as the target for most of its practical jokes. So she decides to keep company with the other girl, in the hopes of a) catching the trickster if it shows up to prank the other girl and b) protecting the other girl, since the trickster's pranks are getting meaner and more dangerous. But she sees the other girl more as a client than a friend at this point.)

4. The "tea" is on a Saturday afternoon; the MC is the only person invited. (The other girl has intended it as a sort of "getting-to-know-you-better" occasion.)

I'd like some idea of what such an afternoon tea would be like under those circumstances. (The tea scene doesn't last long; the trickster soon crashes it, but I'd like to be able to get right the details for what we do see before it shows up.)

lonestarlibrarian
08-21-2019, 05:52 AM
I haven't been to tea in England, but I've been to tea a few times.

The first time, at an upscale hotel, I was impressed. I had no idea that sandwiches could be exciting. It was really awesome.

The second time, at a garden restaurant, I was impressed. The sandwiches were okay, but they had an awesome consomme. It was 150 miles away, but I'd totally go back with a moment's notice, if that consomme was on the menu again. It was kind of a ginger-carrot-chicken soup with great body and flavor, not the thin chicken broth that all the consomme recipes online seem to bring up.

I've had tea a few times at people's houses. (Think bridal showers, formal meet-and-greets.) They tended to be very heavy on the sweets, and not very balanced on the savoury offerings. One was an outdoor tea, and the tea got cold very quickly-- they were using a silver service, and it was November.

I like drinking tea, but I'm not very adventurous with my tea-drinking, if that makes sense? I know what I like, and I'll experiment to be polite, but ultimately, I have my defaults that I gravitate towards. The teas at the hotel and garden would pair a variety of different teas with each course (and sometimes you'd have a choice out of which tea you wanted to try), but the private teas, you got to help yourself to whatever you felt like, the way you liked it.

There are rules for how to pour tea, depending on how things are set up. For example, if the tea has steeped inside the teapot, it's easier to put your dairy in the bottom of your teacup, and then pour the tea over it, so that you don't have to worry about stirring it. However, if you're in a situation where the teapot only has hot water in it, then it would be a different sequence of events. Different teas are better at different temperatures, and steep for different amounts of time. So the actual protocol (?) of the actions are going to vary depending on how seriously/formally she approaches tea; if she's using bags or rolled whole leaves or loose leaf tea; if she's doing black or oolong tea, or if she's offering up white/green/herbal tea; if she's formally pouring or if she takes a more self-serve approach; and so on.

Siri Kirpal
08-21-2019, 07:49 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

And when and where is this taking place? I'm assuming the UK, since you've been asking a bunch of UK related questions. Is it present day?

Hopefully the Brits will show up and give you pointers. But my understanding that there are some situations where tea the meal does not necessarily contain tea the beverage.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Bacchus
08-21-2019, 10:27 AM
All sorts of factors at play for what "tea" might consist of...

If someone lower down the social scale invites you for tea, it is likely to be a simple meal along the lines of beans on toast or fish-fingers and more likely to include squash or a fizzy drink than actual tea.

Your character is more well-to-do so tea is likely to be tea served with savoury and sweet finger food, but then the time of year comes into play!

In the summer a weak black tea or a spiced tea like Earl Grey served with lemon is more likely, sandwiches would be along the lines of cucumber, smoked salmon/salmon pate, or egg and cress, cake would be something like a light fruit cake or a victoria sponge. Ideally the meal would be taken outside but the weather can be fickle so a garden room or conservatory would be great. In winter the meal would be more likely to be in an indoor room, tea would more likely to be a heavier tea such as breakfast tea served with milk, sandwiches gammon ham, and cake a rich fruit cake or even hot buttery crumpets.

Tea can also be taken at hotels or even tea-rooms.

neandermagnon
08-21-2019, 10:28 AM
For most Brits, when a kid invites another kid around for tea, they mean the evening meal. Lunch = light meal eaten at midday and tea = light meal eaten in the evening. So if a kid says "do you want to come round for tea?" they mean "do you want to come and have an evening meal with me after school one day?" Dinner is a larger meal, eaten at midday or in the evening. Coming round for dinner is a much bigger affair than coming round for tea. If a kid comes round for tea then they'll usually go round after school (often collected straight from school by the parent who's doing the tea) then they'll play together for a bit then eat tea. Tea will be something ordinary like beans on toast or chicken nuggets and chips or fish fingers and chips. Something you can cook in less than 20 mins that both kids like. As a friend's come round, maybe there'll be ice cream for pudding. Then they'll play for a bit more, then one or other parent will collect or drop off the visiting child. They'll probably eat around 5pm and go home around 6-7pm.

You can do the same thing on a Saturday afternoon and it'll follow much the same schedule except that probably it'll start at 1pm and there'll be some activity they planned together. Something they're both interested in.

While the precise meaning of "tea" varies by social class and my background is working class, most middle class families would do the same thing if a kid comes round for tea, i.e. prepare them a simple evening meal. Though if you're middle class it might be avocado toast with cinnamon and gooseberry yoghurt for afters. :brit Or the kids might still insist on beans on toast anyway although the beans are probably from Marks and Spencer or Waitrose rather than Lidl. In fact I would imagine if Prince George invited a friend around for tea they'd probably still eat beans on toast. Although the beans might come from Harrods.

How you prepare tea differs by social class:

Working class: put tea bag in mug. Pour boiling water in mug. Stir with a spoon until tea's the right colour, remove tea bag, add milk and/or sugar if desired.

Middle class: like how lonestar librarian describes it but you put the milk in second. What kind of barbarian puts the milk in first? :brit (whether to put the milk or tea in first is an issue that's as divisive as Brexit or whether Jaffa cakes are a cake or a biscuit) If you're using the middle class (teapot) method it really doesn't matter if the milk or tea goes in the cup first but some people get a bit funny about it. Most don't care. If you're doing the working class method, putting the milk in first would be insanely barbaric as the teabag would start to seep into the milk rather than the water ***horror of horrors***.

Upper class: ring bell, when the appropriate servant appears, ask them to bring you tea. If servants are not available for whatever reason, do the working class method.

However, regardless of social class, I can't picture 11 year old kids giving a damn how tea is prepared. Most 11 year olds don't drink tea. Also, middle class people will do the working class method when making tea for just one.

neandermagnon
08-21-2019, 10:29 AM
All sorts of factors at play for what "tea" might consist of...

If someone lower down the social scale invites you for tea, it is likely to be a simple meal along the lines of beans on toast or fish-fingers and more likely to include squash or a fizzy drink than actual tea.

i.e. me :greenie

OP: Brits differ a lot by social class. I'm very working class. If your character's middle class and middle class people are giving a different answer, go with them. But you'll need to make all the details of the characterisation match the social class. Otherwise it's not going to be believable.

Bacchus: would middle class families really go to all that trouble when the only guest is an 11 year old kid? Or would they just let them play and serve them a light meal? (serious question, genuinely curious)

Bacchus
08-21-2019, 10:45 AM
i.e. me :greenie

OP: Brits differ a lot by social class. I'm very working class. If your character's middle class and middle class people are giving a different answer, go with them. But you'll need to make all the details of the characterisation match the social class. Otherwise it's not going to be believable.

Bacchus: would middle class families really go to all that trouble when the only guest is an 11 year old kid? Or would they just let them play and serve them a light meal? (serious question, genuinely curious)

Me too... actually probably not really; I am fortunate enough to have no class (c; My parents would best be described as middle class with a good catholic work ethic but my mum's parents were agricultural labourers in a tied cottage in Yorkshire (my father's side was probably a bit more upper middle...) however I went to the local school before public school so my friendship groups lived on estates ranging from council to shooting, and, yes, the latter would definitely go to a lot of trouble for their little darling's friends. The parents would be present and very nosey trying to find out everything about you and your family - ostensibly out of curiosity but really to find out whether you were a useful connection

CameronJohnston
08-21-2019, 12:17 PM
"Come round for tea" = an invite for evening dinner, unless it's from the upper class in which case it will be actual tea.
Afternoon tea/high tea = a fancier lunch with scones, small sandwiches and cakes. Usually arranged on a 3-tier cake stand. Sometimes with a glass of fizz/champagne rather than, or in addition to, actual tea.
Fish tea = battered fish and chips, and a pot of tea.

Bolero
08-21-2019, 01:25 PM
As someone who thinks of themself as middle class - and is definitely Brit - not all middle class shop at M&S :D. To me the whole faddy food thing or M&S baked beans is more ageing yuppie or wine bar crowd behaviour. Maybe it is upper middle class, dunno. Or monied middle class with higher echelon executive jobs as opposed to un-monied middle class. :)
As to what happens with 11 year old invited round, I'd also say depends on the character of the child giving the invitation. You could have a kid who likes formal tea, wants to be grown up, feels like being a bit grand to their foreign guest and wants to do the whole formal afternoon tea thing. (By the way, if you say afternoon tea, there is no confusion with working class tea :D). If you are using loose leaf tea in a pot then you need a tea strainer and a little pot to stand the tea strainer on. Laid out on the table should be a jug of milk, possibly lemon slices as an alternative (especially if you are serving Earl Grey tea), cups and saucers with tea spoons, sugar in a bowl with its own spoon if loose sugar, tongs if sugar cubes. Never ever stir your tea with the spoon from the sugar bowl, or plunge your wet teaspoon into the sugar bowl. There might even be little tongs for squeezing the lemon slices.
The tea plates would come as a matching set with the cups and saucers and be small and dainty. Cake forks are small and come with two tines joined to act as a cutting edge for the fork. There might even be a special set of tea spoons that are particularly dainty and live in their own case.
(Some of the above comes from tea with my great-aunt and we then inherited her tea set and cutlery.)
I've never heard of putting milk in second when the tea comes from a pot.

To go super fancy you can also have a meths burner kettle - very elegant - that you heat at the tea table and make the tea in front of the guest. There would then be a tea caddy of tea plus a pretty, specially shaped silver spoon for putting the tea into the pot.

Some of the above comes from years back.t. I think tea customs are quite varied these days and will depend on who taught you. If I were ever having people to a formal tea (highly unlikely) that is the standard I'd aim for. People who drop round get loose leaf tea in a pot and mugs and a packet of biscuits opened so they can help themselves. Might tip the biscuits on a plate. Would try to aim for chocolate digestives or something a little better than a plain biscuit.

Also still know some people who'd if you'd particularly invited them round, they'd be offended if you served them shop bought food - they'd expect home baked cake and biscuit. You might just get away with really expensive shop bought but they'd be sniffy at you not going to the effort of cooking for them.

Oh and I'm southern and south western brit - what happens and what it is called varies with region. Tea as an evening meal is also a more northern usage.

t0dd
08-21-2019, 05:06 PM
Thanks for the comments and information, everyone.

I see the "tea" as Saturday afternoon around 1 p.m. The girl hosting it is well-to-do (upper middle class - I even imagined her speaking in a "posh" accent that she's worked hard on), so I imagined her wanting to make it as elegant as possible (considering there's just one guest). I don't know whether there'd be literal tea or not (when the only participants are around eleven years old, maybe not).

It's set in modern-day England (a small town somewhere along the Welsh border area, quiet and out of the way - a town with several mythical creatures - the trickster's just one of them - hiding beneath the surface, literally in some cases).

(One other detail, in case that would affect things; the father of the girl hosting it is a widower - kind of. His wife, the girl's mother, disappeared when she was around two years old, and was never found. He hasn't remarried, meaning just one parent - and I saw him as keeping out of the way when the MC shows up. The "disappeared mother" does affect the story, since when the trickster shows up, it attacks and tries to destroy something that the girl hosting the "tea" links to her vanished mother and has a strong emotional significance to her as a result.)

Stytch
08-21-2019, 05:37 PM
I'm just mentioning this, because of the previous thing about the lemons... Don't have the character mix the lemon and the milk. One or the other, or else you'll be sorry.

Bufty
08-21-2019, 05:52 PM
If it's modern-day England nobody has tea or afternoon tea at 1pm.

Your simplest approach is to have it nearer 3pm, and on the small tea-table- outside if it's sunny- just have a teapot with a tea cosy, a matching hot water jug (to top up the teapot) and a tea caddy with a caddy tea-spoon (to put tea-leaves in the tea-pot. One tea-spoonful per person plus 'one for the pot'!) Matching small milk jug- milk put in the tea-cup first. Matching small sugar bowl. Matching cups and saucers, small side plates, and delicate tea spoons for stirring. And a two/three tier cake stand with triangular cut cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and maybe a selection of small cakes -French fancies a la Mr Kipling. Oh- and paper napkins!

You could get away with tea-bags if you wanted but posh missy would probably prefer loose tea with a tea strainer.

If it's a make-believe tea-party, just have everything but in toy fashion although I'm not sure eleven-year-olds would go along with a dolly tea-party.

t0dd
08-22-2019, 04:03 AM
Yep, definitely not "pretend tea party".

Thanks for the advice. I'll have to check sunrise/sunset times for the UK in January to tell how light outside it would be at 3 pm (the book's set in early January), since while I imagined the tea itself as indoors, the main action (the MC and the other girl confronting the trickster when it shows up) takes place outdoors (the trickster goes on a rampage in the back garden).

Bolero
08-22-2019, 11:04 AM
Tea definitely indoors in January near Wales. Might be in a conservatory. And in winter, as others have said, you'd be going for toasted tea cakes or toasted crumpets with a dish of butter to spread on them. Might have a pop-up toaster on a side table. Butter comes with a butter knife - its own shape. Proper manners is to put some butter on the side of your plate with the butter knife, return butter knife to dish, spread butter with your table knife.

And by the way, you said upper middle class, worked hard on a posh accent - nope. No hard work needed. She would be raised to speak correctly. Any time she used any sort of local dialect in front of her parents she would be corrected. Poor pronunciation or grammar would be corrected. I was certainly drilled like that including nuances such as "can" and "may". "May I offer you some tea?" Not "Can I offer you some tea?" - May = would you permit me to. Can = Am I able to.
She might or might not have the ability or inclination to dumb it down at school to blend in a bit better since you seem to be talking state school in another thread. But if she is of monied upper class she will be at a private school.

Bufty
08-22-2019, 01:10 PM
Yep, definitely not "pretend tea party".

Thanks for the advice. I'll have to check sunrise/sunset times for the UK in January to tell how light outside it would be at 3 pm (the book's set in early January), since while I imagined the tea itself as indoors, the main action (the MC and the other girl confronting the trickster when it shows up) takes place outdoors (the trickster goes on a rampage in the back garden).

Tea inside the conservatory or lounge overlooking the garden at 15.00 would be OK. And if the trickster showed up by 15.15 that would give you say another hour of daylight with sunset at 16.50 or thereabouts. By 16.45 it would probably be too dark to see clearly what was happening outside unless the garden was lit or it was a very clear moonlit night.

Up to you.


I would suggest times don't warrant any mention at all other than perhaps the time she's supposed to arrive for tea.

waylander
08-22-2019, 02:01 PM
Saturday 1pm is lunchtime.

Helix
08-22-2019, 02:07 PM
Saturday 1pm is lunchtime.

Now I've got Genesis in my head...

be frank
08-22-2019, 02:22 PM
Now I've got Genesis in my head...


inside the conservatory

Cluedo for me.

t0dd
08-22-2019, 04:45 PM
Tea inside the conservatory or lounge overlooking the garden at 15.00 would be OK. And if the trickster showed up by 15.15 that would give you say another hour of daylight with sunset at 16.50 or thereabouts. By 16.45 it would probably be too dark to see clearly what was happening outside unless the garden was lit or it was a very clear moonlit night.

Up to you.


I would suggest times don't warrant any mention at all other than perhaps the time she's supposed to arrive for tea.

Yes. I looked up sunset times for England in early January, and found out that sunset's a little after 4 p.m., so I think that the 3 p.m. timing's workable. I'll only need to tweak the scene a bit to indicate longer shadows, etc.

Thanks for the help.

Bufty
08-22-2019, 05:14 PM
Yes. I looked up sunset times for England in early January, and found out that sunset's a little after 4 p.m., so I think that the 3 p.m. timing's workable. I'll only need to tweak the scene a bit to indicate longer shadows, etc.

Thanks for the help.

Good luck, but if you don't mention any specific times you will be 100% right and nobody will question it.

neandermagnon
08-22-2019, 10:18 PM
Me too... actually probably not really; I am fortunate enough to have no class (c; My parents would best be described as middle class with a good catholic work ethic but my mum's parents were agricultural labourers in a tied cottage in Yorkshire (my father's side was probably a bit more upper middle...) however I went to the local school before public school so my friendship groups lived on estates ranging from council to shooting, and, yes, the latter would definitely go to a lot of trouble for their little darling's friends. The parents would be present and very nosey trying to find out everything about you and your family - ostensibly out of curiosity but really to find out whether you were a useful connection

thanks :) really interesting.


As someone who thinks of themself as middle class - and is definitely Brit - not all middle class shop at M&S :D. To me the whole faddy food thing or M&S baked beans is more ageing yuppie or wine bar crowd behaviour. Maybe it is upper middle class, dunno. Or monied middle class with higher echelon executive jobs as opposed to un-monied middle class. :)

Well I figured it was a working class people's stereotype of middle class people. :greenie Probably you get working class people who want people to think they're posh shop there as well. And they'll leave the packet somewhere visible so their guests can see that it came from M&S and not Lidl.



And by the way, you said upper middle class, worked hard on a posh accent - nope. No hard work needed. She would be raised to speak correctly. Any time she used any sort of local dialect in front of her parents she would be corrected. Poor pronunciation or grammar would be corrected. I was certainly drilled like that including nuances such as "can" and "may". "May I offer you some tea?" Not "Can I offer you some tea?" - May = would you permit me to. Can = Am I able to.
She might or might not have the ability or inclination to dumb it down at school to blend in a bit better since you seem to be talking state school in another thread. But if she is of monied upper class she will be at a private school.

I agree.

OP: If she's upper middle class, "posh" would be a natural accent for her. It's people who don't have posh accents who want people to think they're posh who have to make an effort to put them on. So having to put on a posh accent would make her working class or lower middle class, or maybe middle middle class but goes to the local state school because her parents are asset rich cash poor or something. Though in the latter case she'd probably still speak RP at home and easily switch between both accents, i.e. not have to work at it.

Though most working class people don't do this. It's actually quite hard to do a proper, convincing RP accent and make it sound natural and not put on. It's actually more common for people with natural posh accents to speak more like the local accent or more Estuary* to blend in, as described in Bolero's post.

*SE England accent that's between RP (posh) and Cockney, spoken in and around London


Yes. I looked up sunset times for England in early January, and found out that sunset's a little after 4 p.m., so I think that the 3 p.m. timing's workable. I'll only need to tweak the scene a bit to indicate longer shadows, etc.

Thanks for the help.

Shadows? In January? :Wha: What is this sorcery?!

Britain is very cloudy. At 3pm in midwinter it's likely to feel like dusk because of the cloud cover and generally crappy weather, even if sunset's not for another hour or so. Also, it's probably raining. It feels dark even earlier when it's raining. Sometimes the sun comes out... maybe around mid May :greenie

You sometimes get sun in midwinter but it's not likely to be out all day and it tends to be when it's snowy or frosty - in the south of England you don't get snow every year, maybe once every 3-5 years or so. Bear in mind also that the west of the country is more cloudy/rainy than the East. And your story's set almost in Wales. I lived in Wales for a while. The year before I lived there, the town I lived in had 83 consecutive days of rain and it certainly felt like Wales was trying to beat that run the year I was there. It rained more days than it didn't rain. Often not heavy rain, not usually all day, but still rain. The ground is permanently wet.

Not sure how upper middle class parents would feel about children playing in the mud, though with your trickster thing there is scope for much hilarity there. And you can probably get away with whatever weather you want (it's very changeable) but if it's unusual for the season people will comment on it. Brits talk about the weather a lot.

Bolero
08-23-2019, 12:17 AM
How do you tell it's summer in England?
The rain is warmer.

t0dd
08-23-2019, 04:12 AM
I've probably been living in America too long; I end up subconsciously thinking in terms of its weather. (It hasn't helped that I recently had to move to the Southwest.)