Lockdown restrictions have lifted, and our brilliantly British summer is here. There is only one way to celebrate – Yes, you guessed it, Afternoon Tea!
This year Afternoon Tea week is running from the 9th to the 15th of August. What a glorious time to be in England! Just thinking about those crustless sandwiches and scones smothered in Jam and Cream – or is it Cream and Jam? – and those gorgeous cakes with my Earl Grey tea. Oh, I can’t wait!
Yes, it certainly is something worth celebrating, and it’s also worth getting your etiquette right. You don’t want to turn up at a gorgeous venue like the Ritz and stick your little pinky out or eat from the wrong part of the cake stand now – you’ll never get invited to the palace like that now, will you?
So, what is the correct etiquette, and how can you go about learning and practising?
Well, let’s start with some basics.
Afternoon Tea is one of those beautiful and quintessentially British customs; cherished and enjoyed by many. Traditionally it is served at 4.00 pm. Now, though, you will find most venues do not have a fixed time. You can have afternoon tea much earlier or even after 4:00 pm.
It is a social and leisurely do, so take your time! It’s the perfect opportunity to dress up and indulge in some good company.
As it is a British custom, there is, of course, the proper way to have Afternoon Tea. Here are some things to note:
Firstly, unless you are in either Devon or Cornwall, you are free to apply Jam and cream to your scones in any order you wish. In Devon, it’s cream first, and in Cornwall you start with the Jam. Regardless of where you are, however, do remember to use your fingers to break your scones in half first. When it comes to layering with Jam and Cream, be sure not to cover the whole half in one go. Instead, layer a bite-sized section at a time and then eat just that section.
Your napkin: Keep it on your lap, and please dab your mouth, do not wipe. Think about being in the presence of royalty; clearing up of any mishaps must be discreet and polite.
If you leave your table, fold your napkin and leave it on your chair – or the arm – to show that you will be returning. When you’ve finished, fold it up loosely and leave it on the table to your left.
Food: Ah, the nonpareil! You can expect a delightful array of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. They are usually presented, very attractively, on a tiered cake stand. I know you will be tempted to sneak a cake first, but please remember to eat in the correct order and start at the bottom tier. Do make the most of each course, because, when you finish one, there should be no going back!
Finally, the tea: There are few things, in life, more delightful than sipping a correctly-brewed cup of tea, in the company of great food and friends. Black tea is the usual choice for Afternoon Tea. There is, however, some flexibility as to which black tea you use. Any loose-leaf tea which can be strained is ideal and it is also ok to have herbal tea.
Of course, as with any celebration, there is a bit more to it than simply turning up and eating. Here are some tips for making having Afternoon Tea a success:
- Think about the location, including its ambience. How does it feel to sit and relax there?
- Higher tables make for a more comfortable Afternoon Tea – it also means you don’t need to worry about holding your saucer whilst drinking.
- Good Service, well that should go without saying.
I hope that makes for an interesting introduction to Afternoon Tea. If you would like to learn more, please keep an eye on our website www.polishedmanners.co.uk, for details on our Afternoon Tea Etiquette Course.
Also, why not test your knowledge in our fun online quiz? Find out if you are ready for Buckingham Palace or if your etiquette needs a little polishing 😉