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The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea: Five Tips

The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea: Five Tips

My personal experience with afternoon tea growing up was having my father come home every day at 4 pm for a cup of tea accompanied by a slice of cake, before driving off back to work to finish off his day which was usually around 6.30 pm. For a man that worked long hours and very hard, it always fascinated me as to why he would go out of his way every day just to come home for is ritual tea and cake or scones. Whoever was home with him at the time would join him and you would usually engage in a conversation about how tasty the cake was on that day and how our day had been so far. This ritual that became a family custom has nurtured my fascination with afternoon tea or high tea as many know it today.

Here are five facts and handy hints I picked up along the way to keep you in the know and updated on the complicated etiquette of afternoon teas.

Never Stir your Tea

We were all taught to stir our tea. I mean why not, it's just the logical thing to do to mixed and evenly disperse the contents in your cup of tea. For afternoon tea, this is a no-no. Instead, you should always move your spoon back and forth between 6 and 12 o’clock. Once mixed, remove your spoon and lay it on your saucers. Never drink your tea with your spoon still in your cup.


How do you eat your scones?

Your knife is not made for cutting your scone in two. Instead, a scone is broken open like any bread you would find. A well-made scone would break easily and also a cracked baking line in between the top and bottom as an indication of where the natural break should be. Now comes the big question. Do you put the cream or jam first? There is no right or wrong way to answer this question. Some say to put the cream first, and others say put the jam first. In my experience you want your cream and jam to look as neat as possible. That is why I always put the jam first and then top with cream. Some jams are thick and some are runny and this way ensures that you do not have runny jam on top of your cream or thick jam that you have to clump onto of your cream. Never sandwich your scone. Scones should only be eaten in halves.


What do I do with my napkin?

Napkins should always be folded in half and placed on your laps.

When do I pick up the cup and the saucer?

When to pick up the cup and the saucer lies in the height of the table. If you are at a low table, pick up your cup with your saucer, not just the cup alone. However, if you are sitting at a higher table, then it is alright to leave the saucer on the table and drink your tea that way. Also, no picky finger sticking out. Once upon a time that was customary as teacups did not have handles so it was customary to stick up your little finger for balance. Now it is not necessary as there are handles attached to all teacups.


No elbows on the table.

Elbows on the table are a big no-no when it comes to afternoon tea. A bit of leaning is not so bad but hands on your laps would be the best place to put them.


There you have it, a quick guide to the etiquette of afternoon tea. Now you will be ready to have tea with the queen or be socially ready for any formal event that involves a brush with tea and scones.

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