“Where there’s tea, there’s hope.” Wise words from the British dramaturge Sir Arthur Wing Pinero; wise words for winter. Hoping to inspire some tea-steeped cheer, we are introducing a special afternoon tea service. Every afternoon at 4pm, we will host a tea party replete with pressed linens, fine china, Bellocq tea, petit fours, scones, and tea sandwiches. Only one group may enjoy afternoon tea each day; parties of six or less please. Reservations are required; custom invitations can be arranged in advance. Grown guests may add champagne flutes alongside their teacups.
As excited as we are to present this special winter fete, we found ourselves a bit worried about our rustic etiquette: Would we know what to do when presented with such prettiness? To soften our edges, we have distilled a list of afternoon tea DOs and DON’Ts, curated from a bevy of sites with better manners than us.
DO let the hostess/host pour the first cup of tea.
DO raise the saucer with your left hand and hold the teacup with your right.
DO eat with your hands. Slicing a tiny sandwich is silly. Although fingers should not be used to pick up sugar cubes; cue the cute tongs.
DO try a little of each sweet or savory treat served at the tea. Not intended as a meal, afternoon tea is for tasting, not mowing.
DO spread a scone with cream first, then jam.
DO dress up. Why not carpe diem the chance to don a skirt?
DO stir your tea correctly. Place your spoon at a 6 o’clock position and stir clockwise without making the spoon clink or clank. When you’re finished, remember to sit the spoon on the saucer by the side of the cup.
DO wait until you have swallowed your food before you take a sip of tea. The rule is one or the other, not together.
DO look into – not over – your teacup when sipping.
DON’T place items that are not part of the tea service – such as keys, sunglasses, or cell phones – on the table.
DON’T combine milk and lemon in tea. Choose one or the other. Mixing will result in curdling. For the citrus inclined: pour your tea first, then add lemon but remember to remove the slice before you sip.
DON’T let your pinky fly high. A common faux pas based on the misperception that a high pinky balances sippage. Not true.
DON’T fill your cup to the brim with tea in order to avoid messy spills.
DON’T tip your teacup too much when drinking – a slight tip is polite.
DON’T dunk. Resist the urge to dip your scone, sandwich or biscuit in your tea.
DON’T place your napkin on the table until you are ready to leave.
And above all: DO relax and laugh. Tea is to enjoy!