The do's and don'ts of afternoon tea
- Credit: Sincerely Media - Unsplash
BrewSmartly.com’s Alex Ion shares his top five tips on etiquette when attending afternoon tea
1. Dress Appropriately
Afternoon tea is a formal occasion and unless stated otherwise the standard dress code for afternoon tea is 'semi-formal’ or 'smart casual’. This means instead of sportswear and trainers opt for trousers/smart jeans or alternatively a dress.
2. What Do I Eat First?
Afternoon tea is usually served on a three-tiered cake stand, providing sandwiches, scones, and a selection of cakes with tea. The question remains – What do I eat first?
Top to Bottom – A good rule of thumb is top to bottom. The top tier of sandwiches should be approached first followed by the scones below and then lastly, the selection of cakes or pastries.
Cream first or Jam? – The eternal debate for scones is the order in which to apply the toppings. In this case, it is entirely up to the consumer. The Devon way is cream first then jam, however, the Cornish way is jam spread first with cream on top.
Milk first or tea? – Another popular debate amongst Brits is the order in which to make the perfect cup of tea. When pouring for the table, tea takes precedence so that present company can add milk to their preferred taste.
3. Cutlery and Crockery Do’s & Don’ts
Although the standard food served is to be eaten without cutlery. The etiquette surrounding cutlery and crockery is another rule to take note of.
Used cutlery – Once you have used a knife or spoon they must not return to the table but to a plate.
Stirring spoon – Your spoon must not be put into your mouth after stirring.
Cup and Saucers – When you are ready to drink your tea, your saucer must remain on the table and not be moved towards your face with the cup.
In the comfort of your own home dunking a biscuit or two is acceptable. However, the etiquette of an afternoon tea dictates that you must never dunk.
5. Keep Mobile Phones Out of Sight
Nowadays going for an afternoon tea is an event where many will take pictures for social media or to remember the occasion. Although once you have taken your pictures it is advised that you put your phone away and do not leave it out on the table. It is one of the most basic rules of table etiquette so as to be in the moment and not to ignore your company.
Bonus Tip: Splitting the Bill
The preferred method is to split the bill evenly between those partaking in the afternoon tea. However, if this is not the case, it is proper etiquette to decide ahead of time how the bill is to be paid; so as to avoid confusion and potential embarrassment at the end of your experience.