Etiquette of afternoon tea

I am not saying that you must have afternoon tea with etiquette and act like a queen all the time with your bunch of lady friends when having a heart to heart talks.  But in case you are invited for some sort of formal tea session with royals or politicians, you may want to uphold your image as an elegant lady with good upbringing.  Here are some tips that will help you…

First of all, an afternoon tea gives you the most legitimate reason in the world to dress yourself up.  Do not waste the golden chance to show the world your beauty and charm.  While most of the occasions does not demand an evening dress or full tie suit however minimally a “smart casual” attire is required to show your respect to the occasion.  Sandals, sneakers or after work-out attire like yoga clothing is a NO-NO.  No strict rules to define what a lady should wear but I would imagine ladies with cocktail dresses are always attractive but yet not overdressed.

Well, before you walk out from your house please do not shout that you are going for high tea!  If you do not know why, read High Tea or Afternoon Tea? .  For now, just remember that you are going for an afternoon tea.  You can also simply call it tea as this is exactly how British royals call it.

Now you are finally seated at the table.  Some afternoon tea not only serve tea but also wine.  If you observe this, always start with wine followed by tea.  It makes sense for the tea to brew while you enjoy your alcohol.  In occasions of formal tea, we do not use tea bags but tea leaves.  If you are the one serving the tea, make sure you pour the tea into a strainer.  Remove the strainer with loose leaves and pass the cup back to the owner before you pour the second cup.  On the other hand, always pass your tea cup together with saucer to the one who serve the tea. 

In any tea setting, we also do not expect a clink-clank coming from the cups.  You do not make cheers with your companion sitting next to you with tea cups.  And stirring is an art.  When you add sugar or cream in your tea, you stir with up and down motion from 12 to 6 o’clock instead of in circular motion.  After stirring, put your teaspoon on the saucer instead of leave it in the cup.  And make sure your saucer is on the table when you drink.  You lift your cup with your thumb and your thumb and index finger should meet in the handle of the cup, while your middle finger is supporting the handle itself.  Keep your small finger down.  It should not be pointing upward in any of the circumstances.  Lastly you make your cup go near to your lips but do not bend your body to drink.  Trust me, it really looks nicer and more  elegant with your body straight all the time. 


Good news! There is nothing wrong at all to eat with your fingers.  Afternoon tea is served with finger food so of course you are allowed to use your fingers to eat.  Savory desserts are always at the bottom of the tiers followed by sweet desserts at the top tier.  Start eating with the bottom tier which is slightly filling like sandwiches first.  You can move on to scones and then sweet stuff like macarons and cakes after that.  One thing about eating a scone is to break it into half.  Yes, use your finger to break the scones but do not use a knife.  A knife is to spread the clotted cream on the other half, then some fruit jam if you like.  Eat the first half followed by the second half.  Please do not try to spread cream or jam in between the halves and patch them back as one piece and eat.  This is totally unacceptable in an afternoon tea.

Well if you follow all etiquettes mentioned above, you are not far from high society.  Keep it up and build it as nature in you instead of trying to memorize and act over your tea session.  You will make your companions more comfortable that way.