Having tea with friends or family members should be a much-anticipated reward. It's a time specifically evolved to allow snacking, refreshment and conversation. In the midst of all those positive goings-on, there should be no stress about how to properly enjoy your afternoon tea. But nor should there be any slurping, clinking or raising of errant pinkie. So here are 10 simple rules that will allow you to embrace tea time without fearing embarrassment.
1. Do not hold a tea cup with the aforementioned digit pointing out to the side. How gauche!
2. Do not wrap your hand around the cup a la cocoa-filled mug fashion but rather delicately hold the teacup by meeting your thumb and index finger in the loop of the handle. The rest of the crew can rest along the edge of the handle. See rule #1 above.
3. Do not hold the saucer as well as the cup when taking a sip. The saucer stays on the table. Caveat #1, if you are passing your cup to be filled, the saucer should accompany the cup. Caveat #2, if you are standing or sitting with no table in front of you, you should hold the saucer and cup together.
4. Eat the refreshments in order, from the bottom layer to the top, savory to sweet. Those fancy tiered trays are quite purposeful.
5. Do use your fingers to eat all 3 courses. Scones may be torn into smaller portions by hand and then a knife may be employed to add clotted cream and jam or lemon curd.
6. Stir your tea north to south (12 o’clock to 6 o’clock), never in a circular fashion. Who knew? And this should be a silent maneuver. No clanging.
7. Tea first, then milk. The hot liquid should precede the cold.
8. Don’t put the teaspoon in your mouth. It’s only there for the stirring.
9. Sugar and milk are for black tea only. All other teas remain unsullied.
10. No personal belonging on the table. Phones, glasses and other odd and ends should be placed by your side.