The Perfect Afternoon calls for Perfectly Brewed Tea & Table Manners.
Afternoon tea is a popular social event and should be enjoyed with decent etiquette. If you've been invited to an afternoon tea, knowing the dos and don'ts of polite behaviour will make sure that your experience is positive and enjoyable for everyone
1.Tea pouring etiquette
Tea gets cold quickly, so be sure you always pour one cup of tea for each guest and tend to their tea requests, one at a time. If you pour 6 cups of tea at once, rest assure that you will not enjoy it as much as when it is piping hot.
2. Tea first or milk first?
I am sure you have already heard the myths around this. Logically speaking, you do not know how strong your tea will be once poured, so it’s smart to add the milk after you've poured the tea.
3. Can you have tea without milk?
Yes! There is no rule against condiment preferences. Certain teas do not require milk but it is down to personal preference.
4. How to hold a teacup correctly
We do not hook our index finger through the handle. Instead, we pinch the handle with our index finger and our thumb so that they meet in the middle, our middle finger supports the teacup while the rest of the fingers follow suit.
5. Pinkie finger, yes or no?
No. Although one may feel more elegant sticking the pinkie finger out, it is considered indelicate. It hails back to the ancient Romans when a man of elegance and breeding would eat his food with three fingers while the masses would shovel in food with their entire hand. To show one’s position in society one would stick out the little finger for all the world to see. It was a social status symbol.
6. How do you stir your tea?
We stir up and down, not in circles. While stirring, make sure your teaspoon does not clang and touch the sides of the teacup. During any meal, it is appreciated that the only noise one hears is that of polite conversation. Once you have done with stirring your tea, a gentle flick of the spoon is warranted and placed behind the handle, facing East.
7. How to eat a scone correctly
A scone should never be dunked. Indeed nothing should ever be dunked in liquid, at least not in public. A scone is meant to be eaten one small piece at a time.
8. Where scones originate
Scones actually hail from Scotland. The original gaelic word sgonn, which is why 'scone' rhymes with 'gone' rather than 'home'. They were traditionally made from oats or barley flour, as wheat has never grown well in the Scottish Highlands. They were round and flat and cooked on a griddle over a fire rather than in the oven.
9. Correct way to pronounce scone
Scone rhymes with prom, not home
10. Jam or clotted cream first?
That’s an easy one - it’s up to you. The best clotted cream is made in Cornwall and Devon. The Devonians prefer to place the clotted cream on first and then the jam. They love to see the cream melt into the scone. Afternoon tea lovers from Cornwall prefer to show off the quality of their clotted cream by placing it on top!
Milk, or rather, cream was first added to tea around 1636 in France by Madame de la Sablière. It reflected European tastes for rich food and also had the added benefit of hiding the flavour of low-quality and adulterated teas. Even the more expensive, higher-graded teas were often questionable. One must remember that the shipment of tea leaves took more than a year to reach British shores from China.
Sugar in the 18th Century was an expensive commodity and, as a result, was kept under lock and key. It was sold in many grades, from the refined pure white sugar that only the rich could afford down to the darkest of brown sugar consumed by the poor. Sugar was moulded into large cone-shaped loaves and were either broken up into irregular lumps with special ‘sugar nippers’, hence the English term ‘one lump or two?’. Sugar cubes were not invented until 1843 and granulated sugar is a recent invention.
13. How to hold a fork correctly
Sometimes we use a fork - a patisserie fork, to be exact. It can also be called a pudding fork or a dessert fork, depending on where you are in the world. This would only apply when the cake has a soft filling such as cream and jam.
14. Correct way to use cutlery
Traditionally, the fork would be held with the right hand with the tines facing upwards. However, if you are left handed, there is no harm in holding the fork in your left hand!
15. Table setting. How is cutlery placed on a table?
The knife (which is used for spreading, not cutting) is placed on the right hand side of your plate. Your patisserie fork on the left, and your plate takes centre stage together with your napkin which is placed on top of the plate.
16. What is the proper way to steep tea. Will tea steep in cold water?
No, the tea will not steep in cold water. Always warm the pot beforehand. The discard this warming water and add the tea leaves to the warmed pot. Why? Warming the pot first ensures the optimal temperature of the tea. If the pot is cold, as soon as you add the boiling water, the temperature of the liquid will decrease considerably. Also the more oxygen the water has, the better the tea will taste, so make sure you use cold, running water. Natural spring water is reputed to be the best for brewing tea, but filtered water is good too. Leave the tea to steep (loose leaf is preferable) for anywhere between 3-6 minutes depending on the type of tea used.