Quick Guide to Formal Afternoon Tea Etiquette

Do not talk while your mouth is full of food. Do not slurp too loudly when drinking. Eat your food in the proper order. These are just a couple of the basic mannerisms expected of anyone partaking in afternoon tea. As a matter of fact, table etiquette is hardly a sole domain for afternoon tea; however, it is the main focus of this article. Classic Victorian etiquette is revered across the world, and for a good reason. We explore the quintessential Victorian customs – primarily surrounding afternoon tea as well as an avoidable faux pas.

Customary Table Manners

We often come across questions such as, “Who pours the tea?”, “Can I dunk my biscuits?” or “How should I handle the saucer?” Well, ideally, your host is the one who serves your tea. If you are doing the hosting, be sure to set a teapot with its spout facing you. First, pour the hot liquid into the cup through a strainer with loose tea leaves, and then pour the cold milk. If the function or gathering is too formal, do not use teabags.

When grabbing the cup, press the top loop of the handle between your thumb and index finger. Slide your middle finger to the outer bottom of the loop handle to provide support. Do not stick your pinkie finger out. If you are seated at a table, do not lift the saucer when sipping your tea’ leave it on the table. Speaking of sipping, slurping is rude; therefore, avoid it at all costs.

Napkin Rules

As far as Classic Victorian etiquette goes, there is no definitive folding shape for napkins for afternoon tea. The basic rule, however, is to ensure that it is placed on the left side of the plate with the open edge facing right while the folded edge faces left. If you must excuse yourself from the table, return the napkin on the left side of the plate.

Pastry Stand and Order of Eating

The proper formal way to present food during afternoon tea is on a tiered pastry stand. The standard food offerings here are scones placed at the top tier, crust-free sandwiches placed at the middle tier, and sweets or desserts placed at the bottom tier. The correct order of eating is savory to sweet, which means sandwiches, scones, and then sweets in that order. When eating scones, break into bite-size pieces and spread each piece with your preferred accompaniment.

There is certainly a lot more to be covered in afternoon tea, but we are confident these tips should sail you through any formal tea party. On the very off chance, you eventually get that invitation to Kensington Palace for afternoon tea, you have nothing to worry about!