Afternoon Tea Etiquette II.
The most important thing you need to know about the Afternoon tea is when it is served. When you will demand the setting too late or too early, the other etiquette skills you have required won’t be put into much use. You can usually enjoy Afternoon tea anytime between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., it is meant to be enjoyed right after lunch and just before dinner. Its dainty sandwiches and delicious scones are supposed to be a little “pick me up” in the midst of the afternoon lethargy we all know a little too well.
Also, do not believe the myth that the only place you can enjoy a delightful Afternoon tea ceremony the “right” way is London. There are many establishments around the world that have proven themselves among Afternoon tea lovers.
Afternoon tea is NOT High tea
There are many types of tea ceremonies and they all have their unique characteristics and are not to be confused. Besides the Afternoon tea ceremony, there is also Creme tea, High tea and Royal tea. Although it may seem they are all referring to the same tea ceremony but on the contrary, they are all very different.
Many people tend to confuse Afternoon tea with High tea, thinking they refer to the same thing. This is a common misconception. Unlike afternoon tea, which consists of scones, sandwiches and desserts and tea only, High tea is usually more extensive. High tea ceremonies usually include meat dishes, fruits, and desserts. High tea is more of an actual meal than just a little “pick me up” snack and it is served at a higher, dining table, as opposed to the Afternoon tea served on a lower, coffee table.
What to wear?
It is more of a casual activity, it is not too formal, so it will be better if you´ll leave your long gown at home. The perfect style to wear to the ceremony is smart casual. To look smart casual you, of course, cannot turn up to the restaurant in sweatpants, but you can however wear jeans, they just have to be paired with something slightly more formal, like a jacket or pair of formal shoes.
Also, this ceremony might be a hard time for the coffee lovers out there since you won’t be served coffee during the Afternoon tea. You can choose from a wide selection of teas, from the highly fermented ones to the unfermented ones.
You can expect to be served a three-tiered rack. The first, on the lowest plate, are sandwiches, right above them you will see some scones with clotted cream and jam. On the third, highest plate you will see the desserts. From the cutleries, you can expect a small plate, fork and a knife, cup with a saucer and a little teaspoon.
What comes first?
In the ceremony, there is always only one person pouring the tea, usually, it is the hostess. When asked if you want your tea strong or weak, reply strong if you want your cup to be filled with tea up to three quarters, weak if you want it to be filled up to half. You can then add hot water to the rest of the cup. If you are drinking your tea with sugar and milk, you should add the sugar first, then milk and when you drink your tea with lemon, you should put the sugar in first as well, otherwise, the acid from the lemon will prevent the sugar from dissolving. When it comes to the milk and tea, you should always pour the tea first, then add milk.
The finger sandwiches are used to clear the palate before eating scones and desserts, so they are the first in line. They are not called finger sandwiches for no reason, you are actually meant to eat them with your fingers, as well as the scones. Even when you just came for the scones and desserts and the sandwiches are not really your thing, you should wait until everybody has finished eating them.
Always pour your tea through the strainer, stir the tea in a 6h to 12h motion, lift your cup with the saucer and last but not least, always bring your cup up, never tilt down to drink your tea.