Fancy a spot of tea? Proper afternoon tea etiquette

Fancy a spot of tea? Proper afternoon tea etiquette

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Afternoon tea is a fantastically fun and delicious affair. Savory finger sandwiches, warm scones, sweet cakes and petit fours accompany steaming pots of freshly brewed tea. Before you venture out, here are a few helpful dos and don’ts of afternoon tea.

Before you go 

DO: Make a booking or reservation. Afternoon teas, especially themed ones, can sometimes be hard to get into if you don’t have a reservation. 

DON’T: Worry if you forgot to make a booking. Sometimes the best tea rooms are the ones off the beaten path, hidden behind the High Street or center of town. 

DO: Wear your favorite hat or fascinator for fun. Most tea rooms aren’t super formal and generally abide by a smart casual dress code. This usually means nice pants or jeans and no sneakers. 

DON’T: Wear your yoga pants or flip flops (even though it’s comfy, it’s a no). 

During the meal 

DO: Figure out what type of “tea” you’re going to. Did you know that there are actually four different “teas?” Cream tea is usually a pot of tea served with scones. High tea typically offers heartier and savory fare (eggs benedict, anyone?). Afternoon tea is the more popular and traditional setting, complete with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. Royal tea adds champagne or prosecco to afternoon tea. 

DO: Break your scone into little pieces (or in half) and try the clotted cream and jam. Cream first or last? It doesn’t really matter, as long as you try both.  

DON’T: Dunk it (or anything else, for that matter) in your tea or make a scone sandwich.  

DO: Strain your tea with the strainer. Most teas are brewed with loose leaves, and you’re given a strainer that fits over the brim of your cup. Pour the tea through the strainer into your cup. Voila! Delicious, non-leafy tea. 

DON’T: Pick the tea leaves out of your teeth. Nobody needs to see that. 

DO: Eat finger sandwiches with your fingers. Using your fork would be a little awkward. 

DON’T: Eat ALL of the sandwiches. Be sure to save some for your tablemates. 

DO: Put your pinky DOWN. No one really knows where this practice came from, but you may get a few snickers. 

DON’T: Put your pinky up (resist the Instagram or Snapchat urges — it’s not fancy). 

DO: Stir gently, back and forth without smashing the spoon into the sides of the cup. 

DON’T: Create a tea whirlpool when stirring. 

DO:  Use your napkin. Proper etiquette suggests dabbing the corners of your mouth. 

DON’T: Use your sleeve or jacket, or wear your napkin like a bib.  

DO: Follow any restrictions the establishment may request for health and safety regulations. 

Most importantly, do enjoy the afternoon and time with your friends and family. Having afternoon tea (whichever form you choose) is a great way to catch up and relax. Cheers and remember … pinkies down! 

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