High Tea Etiquette: A Simple Guide


The Duchess of Bedford between 1788 and 1886, Anna, is credited with creating the tradition of high tea in Britain. Before tea was introduced to the country, two main meals were served: breakfast and dinner. Dinner was initially served in the afternoon, but it was later shifted to a late hour at night during the 18th century. As a result, Anna usually felt famished by four o'clock and asked servants to sneak in some tea and a few snacks into her room at Belvoir Castle. Gradually, she started inviting friends to her room to share tea, butter sandwiches and small cakes. The practice became popular among high society, and working families embraced it during the Industrial Revolution. Currently, hotels in America offer high tea between 3 and 4 pm. Although today's high tea is less formal, it is important to observe some simple etiquette when invited for this occasion.

Adding milk

Milk should be added last after pouring the tea into a cup. It is for the simple reason that you don't know how strong the tea is, so you cannot estimate the amount of milk you need. Add the milk slowly, until you acquire the desired color change. Some people like their tea a bit dark, while others prefer to take it when it turns golden brown.

Stirring the tea

When stirring the tea using a tea spoon, do not use circular sweeping motions. Instead; swish your spoon forth and back. When doing this, make sure you do not clink the spoon against the sides of the cup. Once you are done, remove the spoon from the cup and place it on the right hand side of the saucer.  You should never sip the tea using the spoon nor drink from the cup while the spoon is still inside. Do not lift the tea saucer if you are taking the tea when seated on the table. When not taking the tea, place the cup on the saucer and do not wave it in the air or hold it up. Avoid swirling the contents of the cup as you could end up staining your clothes or the table cloth.


Scones traditionally accompany high tea in most settings. Break the scone into two using your hands as opposed to splitting it using a knife. Scoop a small amount of jam, clotted cream and curds onto your plate. Apply a generous amount of the three aforementioned spreads on each half of the scone using a knife. Eat each half separately, as opposed to sandwiching them back together. Take small bites of the scone as attending high tea is usually considered a social event and a full mouth will prevent you from taking part in conversations.


Settings offering high tea will usually have napkins folded in different shapes, such as circles or triangles. At times, the napkin will be placed on or beside the tea plate. If high tea is offered in a buffet style, the napkins are usually placed next to the silverware. Wherever it is placed, pick up your napkin, unfold it and place it on your lap to protect your clothes from stains in case of a spillage. If you need to take a break before finishing the tea, place the napkin on your chair and not the table. After finishing your tea, pick up the napkin and loosely fold it before placing it on the left side of your plate.

Now that you know a few things about high tea etiquette, head over to a company like Clumzy Clover Teas & Treasures to practice!


11 January 2016

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