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English Tea Room Etiquette

English Tea Room Etiquette

Along with the rise of tea in England came English tea rooms, where tea was served at all times of the day, but particularly in the afternoons. Popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries, English tea rooms became culturally significant meeting places for all aspects of society. While the working and lower classes might enjoy high tea at a casual tea house, the upper classes took afternoon tea in elegantly appointed tea rooms.

Although tea rooms largely went out of style in the mid-20 Century, there are still plenty of places in the US and UK where you can indulge in an afternoon tea, or “cream tea” - that is, tea with scones, clotted cream and jam. Or, host your own English tea party and invite friends for a fun time.

If you happen to stumble upon a tea room in your travels or if you host your own party, there is a particular etiquette that you should practice. Simply follow these guidelines and you'll fit right in.

Pinkies Down, Not Up

While some think you are supposed to drink tea with your pinkies in the air, it is actually considered rude. Instead, hook your index finger around the handle of the cup and secure the cup by placing your thumb on top of the handle; rest your middle finger along the bottom of the handle.

Don't Clink Your Spoon

Once your tea has been poured, you may add milk, sugar or lemon. But take care when you stir your tea not to clink your spoon against the side of the cup. Instead, gently swish the mixture without touching the sides of the cup. Once you're finished stirring, remove the spoon from your cup and set it on your saucer, behind your tea cup.

Sip with Care

When sipping your tea, avoid spilling by looking down into your cup, not around the table at the other guests. Then, return the tea cup back to the saucer.

And About that Saucer…

The only time you should pick up your saucer with your tea cup is when you're standing. If you're sitting, as you will be at most tea rooms, leave your saucer on the table.

Mind Your Manners

Channel your grandmother and make sure to use your very best table manners in an English tea room. This includes placing your napkin in your lap, and setting your knife on the edge of your plate after use.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you're planning to visit an English tea room or if you're throwing a tea party of your own, it's a good idea to invest in your own bone China tea set. While you're at it, pick up some fine English teas such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey Creme Black Tea so you can really get into the spirit.

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