Guide to Afternoon Tea Etiquette
By Sara Shaw
Here at Afternoon Tea Online, we are frequently asked questions about Afternoon Tea Etiquette. It would seem many people fret about whether the cream goes first on the scones, or the Jam. The Ceremony of Afternoon Tea is one that should be enjoyed first and foremost and one shouldn't be worrying about whether or not to raise their little finger when taking a sip of their Tea. However, if this is your first time in taking part in this great British tradition, you may take some comfort and relief from the following guidelines.
Before the Event
Depending on where you are taking afternoon tea will depend on the establishment's dress code, these can be found on the booking pages of our website. Most premises have a smart/casual dress code, jeans are acceptable as long as they're not ripped or tatty and shoes, not trainers must always be worn. Smart shorts around knee length will also normally be acceptable but sports clothing is a definite no-no! For ladies, it's the perfect excuse to get dressed up in your favourite dress but if one prefers, you can dress down as long as you look smart.
At the Table
Restaurants take a great amount of pride in setting up your Afternoon Tea setting and creating the perfect ambiance. It would therefore only be polite to not litter floors with your day's shopping bags and clutter up the table tops with mobile phones and keys etc. Coats and bags should be left in The Cloakroom on arrival, anything that you need to have with you should put neatly under your chair or clothing can be placed on the back of your chair. One's napkin should be placed on the lap and left on the chair if the need arises to get up.
Preparing your Tea
After choosing your teas and menu, you will be served your tea. You will usually be poured your first cup of tea by the waiter, if however, the teapot is placed on the table without pouring, the honour lays with the person the teapot is nearest, they should then pour for everybody. Tea can be left to brew for as long as required, this is down to personal taste. Milk, lemon and sugar can then be added as required. You should try to avoid banging your teaspoon against the side of the cup whilst stirring and always remove the teaspoon and place it on the rear of the saucer before drinking your tea. A teacup should never be held with both hands and should never be held with the palm of your hand around the teacup. Tut tut!!
Drinking your Tea
Your tea should be enjoyed throughout your meal, if one needs more hot water at any point; it is completely acceptable to ask for some. Waiters should be persuaded over to your table with eye contact and a gentle lifting of the head, you should not be calling across a room or waiving your hand in the air like a loony! When drinking your tea, your cup should be held between your thumb and forefinger , using the middle finger to balance the cup, the other two fingers should be tucked gently into the palm of your hand. It is a general mis-conception that one should be pointing their baby finger in the air during tea drinking, this is not the case! Always look down into your teacup as you drink, definitely no slurping and remember to chew and swallow completely before taking a drink of tea, it is not meant to wash the food down. It goes without saying that you shouldn't dunk biscuits in your tea and always place your teacup back in the saucer when you are not drinking. Neighbouring guests do not wish to be showered in tea if you get a little over excited, even if it is the finest Oolong!
Eating your Afternoon Tea
Generally, Afternoon Tea will be served on a three tiered stand with Savouries at the bottom, Scones in the middle and pastries on the top. This is the order in which it should be enjoyed. Take your time when eating, only take small, delicate mouthfuls; this will ensure you can still participate in the conversation without always having a full mouth. Pause frequently to refresh your pallet with your choice of tea. Scones can be broken or sliced, whichever you prefer, and Jam and Cream should be spooned on to one' tea plate, not served straight from the dish with the serving spoon! Jam and Cream can be added to the scone as you wish; residents of Cornwall think it should be Jam first, whereas the folk of Devon believe the cream should come first. Either way is completely acceptable.