Safely Pouring Tea at
The Hotel Berkeley, London

O, the dangers lurking in the innocent setting of a tearoom.

The December 18, 1930 edition of The New York Times carried the account of a lawsuit recently filed in Montreal over an unfortunate incident at a tea table in the local Ritz Carlton Hotel.

It seems that Mrs. George Schofield Beer of St. John, New Brunswick filed for damages in the amount of $11,628.90, charging “damage to sensibility and social standing.”

The action arose from burns suffered by Mrs. Beer when a pot of hot tea was spilled over her neck and shoulders in the course of afternoon tea at the hotel. The hot tea, it was claimed by Mrs. Beer, was upset by a careless waiter, for whom the hotel owners are responsible.

The hotel owners countered that the accident was caused when the tray on which the waiter carried the tea was struck by Mrs. Beer while she was talking in an animated manner.

Whether “damage to sensibility and social standing” is a legitimate ground for a claim for damages is a question which the court is asked to decide.

Having owned a tearoom for 14 years where I often had to navigate a delicate course through a sea of gesticulating hands and bodies – while hoisting teapots loaded with lethally-hot liquid – I am tempted to side with the unfortunate waiter!
Read more British and American tea history in A Social History of Tea by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson.

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