The Project Gutenberg eBook: Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America:... by Rodris Roth

Cover of Tea Drinking in 18th Century America
Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America:
Its Etiquette and Equipage—
By Rodris Roth

In 18th-century America, the pleasant practice of taking tea at home was an established social custom with a recognized code of manners and distinctive furnishings. Pride was taken in a correct and fashionable tea table whose equipage included much more than teapot, cups, and saucers.

It was usually the duty of the mistress to make and pour the tea; and it was the duty of the guests to be adept at handling a teacup and saucer and to provide social “chitchat.” Because of the expense and time involved, the tea party was limited to the upper classes; consequently, such an affair was a status symbol. The cocktail party of the 20th century has, perhaps, replaced the tea party of the 18th century as a social custom, reflecting the contrast between the relaxed atmosphere of yesterday with the hurried pace of today.

The Author: Miss Roth is assistant curator of cultural history in the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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