10 Things To Know About High Tea Etiquette

10 Things To Know About High Tea Etiquette

What Is High Tea?

Did you know high tea is associated with meals consumed with tea between 5-7 pm? Hence, don’t be surprised when some refer to it as dinner too. 

To the uninitiated, the difference between high and afternoon tea (sometimes referred to as low tea) isn’t obvious. But there are some meaningful distinctions between them.

For example, high tea is consumed at the table with high back chairs. The spread tends to be more elaborate too. Plus, other important social norms or etiquettes are associated with the occasion. Here are ten of them:

1. Don’t call it “high tea”

It’s just afternoon tea or tea. High tea is served between 5-7 pm, which is treated as dinner in some places. But if you’re invited for tea between 3-5 pm, it is just afternoon tea or tea.

In addition, afternoon tea servings are small bites consumed with the fingers instead of utensils.

2. Keep phones off the table

Smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives, but it doesn’t have a place on the table at high tea. Conversations should not be interrupted by incoming calls or texts. Your focus should be on the tea, the food served, and the people you’re with. It’s a relaxed occasion.

3. Don’t wrap your hands around the cup

Elegance is a central theme of high tea. It extends to how the teacup is held; never wrap your hands around the cup. Do not treat your teacup like a coffee mug on a cold winter morning. 

4. Put your pinkie finger down

This may sound over the top, but when the teacup is held by the handle, your pinkie finger should face down. It’s the little things that matter, and it can’t get any smaller than this. 

The right way to hold the teacup is to put the index finger and thumb through the handle. The rest of the fingers are tucked together beneath them. 

5. Don’t expect a teabag 

You will be served loose tea, not tea bags. Always use a strainer, which is placed over your teacup and removed before taking your first sip.

6. Milk comes after tea

The milk is to be added after the tea has been poured. If you can’t remember the sequence, remember that the hot liquid comes first before the cold. 

7. Don’t over-stir

Subtlety is another theme of high tea etiquette. When you stir in circles, chances are you will over stir. Moreover, it will likely be noisy as you will be clanging the sides of the cup.

Stir in north-south, or 6 pm to 12 am direction. When you are done, resist the temptation of tapping your teaspoon or, worst, licking it. Both are unacceptable at-the-table behaviour.

8. Don’t drink from the teacup with the spoon in it

Leave the spoon on either side of the saucer before taking a sip. Never drink with the teaspoon in the teacup. It will appear unsightly and clumsy, too, as it sticks into your face! 

9. Take small sips

Your tea isn’t a thirst quencher. As such, do not gulp it down. Instead, take small sips. Like the caution given earlier on stirring, it is likely less noisy when you sip. You are probably being served some of the finest tea. Every sip is to be savoured. 

As you sip, do not swish your mouth with the tea. Your tea is to be indulged in and enjoyed. It’s not meant to be a mouth cleanser or cleansing your palate to continue to enjoy the savoury and sweet items served. 

Finally, remember that the saucer stays on the table as you sip. Do not lift it together with your teacup. Plus, you are supposed to be seated. You will only take the teacup with you if you move a foot away from where you are seated or standing up. If the latter, you should hold the saucer on your left hand and teacup on the right. 

10. Eat your food in proper order

Food will be served in 3-tiers. You will find sandwiches in the bottom tier, scones accompanied by cream and jam in the middle, with dessert and sweets at the top. Work your way up, that is, start from the bottom with the sandwiches.

Now, remember they are finger food. You are supposed to take 2 to 3 bites at a time. Given that it’s a social occasion, it won’t be easy to engage in a conversation with a mouthful of sandwiches. 

With scones, you can break them up and use the tea knife to spread the cream or jam. Most scones have a crease in the middle that makes it easy for you to break them apart.

The Highest Of Teas

Ready to impress your family and friends with your familiarity with a tradition passed on from one generation to the next? Book now to enjoy that special celebration with us. The etiquette to be observed is a significant part of the overall experience. They are subtle, almost invisible to the naked eye.

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