Maxwell & Williams Afternoon Tea

The Do’s & Don’ts of Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is always in fashion. No matter what the occasion. Think of yourself as a character in Bridgerton – get dressed up and enjoy an afternoon cup of tea with all the appropriate treats.

Here are the Teas and C’s for hosting and enjoying a classy Afternoon Tea event. 

As the host of an Afternoon Tea

Do use the correct terminology. The term High Tea refers to a meal (typically lunch). Afternoon tea is the correct term for tea served between 3pm and 5pm.

Do serve three courses of treats. All three courses are served together, but still enjoyed in the following order: savoury treats like cucumber sandwiches and mini quiches, followed by scones and lastly dessert treats.

Do set the table in the appropriate manner:

  • Your small plate goes straight in front of the guest.
  • The napkin is placed on top of the small plate.
  • The cup is placed on top of the saucer and goes on the right side of your plate. The handle of the teacup faces 3 o’clock. Left-handed guests can turn their cups so that the handle faces 9 o’clock.
  • If you choose to use a doily (which is meant to catch drips from the cup), place it between the cup and the saucer.

Don’t forget to hold the knob at the top of the teapot, called the finial, when serving tea to avoid the lid from falling off when pouring. 

Don’t serve yourself first. Make sure all your guests have tea before pouring for yourself.

Maxwell & Williams Afternoon Tea

As an Afternoon Tea Guest

Do eat with your fingers. Yes, this is proper etiquette for Afternoon Tea. Items like scones should be broken into smaller pieces – no need to cut your scone with a knife.

Do dab your mouth and clean your fingers with a napkin. Never lick your fingers.

Maxwell & Williams Afternoon Tea

Do serve only one of each food item to yourself to ensure other guests get one of each treat too. 

Do stir your tea by moving your spoon between 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock in your cup without making a sound. Place the spoon inside the saucer when done. Stirring tea around in the cup and then tapping the spoon on the side of the cup with a clinging noise is a no-no.   

Do dress for the occasion. Afternoon Tea dress code is smart casual or smart. Arriving in beach wear is not suitable. 

Do serve the eats onto your side plate first. Eating directly from a serving tray or platter is not considered good manners. 

Do hold your teacup correctly by pinching the index finger to your thumb between the handle of your teacup. The middle finger supports underneath the handle of the teacup. Do not cup your hands around the cup. 

Don’t hold your pinky up when drinking tea. Contrary to popular belief, pinkies out are not etiquette. 

Don’t dunk your treats in your tea. This is not morning coffee and rusks.

Don’t slurp your tea or blow on it to cool it down. 

Don’t put food on your saucer.  Use your side plate instead.

Don’t be distracted by your phone. Take photos on arrival then put your phone away (not on the table) and enjoy the lavish affair!