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Afternoon Tea is served with tea and a tower of delectables. Savories on the bottom, a layer of scones, followed by sweet pastries.

Though a tad disorientating, and loaded with a minefield of class conscious rituals (the likelihood of committing a social faux pas is unavoidable), it’s enormous fun!

Read on and you’ll fit right in! Downton Abbey anyone?


But what about the other teas’

*Cream Tea Usually just scones with clotted cream and preserves served with tea.

*High Tea was historically taken later in the day, as a heartier meal for the lower classes. (Faux pas alert!! Not the same, don’t say it, you’ll confuse the wait staff!)
*Royal Tea Less widely used, signifying the addition of a glass of champagne to a traditional Afternoon Tea, for those extra special occasions, or whenever! (Faux pas alert! At Afternoon Tea, you want to accept some tea, not a tea.

“Yes, I’d like some tea.”and not “Sure, I’ll have a tea.” Again, you’ll confuse the wait staff!)



Dress code?

days? Relaxed ‘smart casual’, no need for men to wear a jacket and tie, trousers or smart jeans, collared shirt sort of thing. For the ladies, it’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up!

Order of operations – Oh Mother!
But before you start, someone needs to be designated, Mother. They then pour the tea for everyone at the table.

*Remember to put the milk in first!

*Tea should be stirred back and forth, not in circular motions!

*Spoon sits in the saucer.

*When sipping tea, look into your teacup, not over it. (Makes it easier not to spill tea down your front or on the tablecloth when you keep your eye on your cup.) Apparently, casting your eyes down as you sip also makes you look more demure, in case that’s the look you’re going for…



To the (tier) tower

Step one: (*Faux pas alert!) Savory first!

Finger sandwiches, pinwheels, mini sausage rolls, and other bite-sized offerings. Common sandwich fillings include thinly sliced cucumbers and butter.  Smoked salmon and dill.  Egg salad.  Deviled ham.  Tuna salad.


Step two: Onto the scones – they should still be warm.

Scones should be broken in 2 by hand, not with a knife, and each half-eaten separately. It’s unthinkable to sandwich them back together!

Scones are pronounced “sCON” and not “sCONE”. These beasties are

plain, round cakes that resemble American biscuits. This is quite different from the triangle-shaped scones with “mix-ins” and glazes you may be more familiar with at your local coffee shop.

(*Faux pas alert! Occasionally, for aesthetic purposes, these lovelies are placed on the bottom tier…do not be fooled! They are not savories! Savories first…)


Step three: Finally The top layer of the serving tray features a variety of sweets including petits fours, tarts, and other desserts. A traditional English afternoon tea sweet is Battenberg cake, a pink and yellow checkered cake wrapped in marzipan.

So, Pinkies Up? (*Mother of all faux pas alerts!)

Forget the etiquette rules followed during the Kool-Aid tea parties you hosted as a child. Extending your pinkie finger is weird, not done…and a teeny bit rude. Where did that originate, anyway?

Instead, tuck your pinkie finger in and pinch the handle with your thumb, index, and middle finger.



(*A debate over whether cream or jam should go on a scone first has finally been settled after nearly 1,000 years – by the Queen. Her majesty’s chef appears to have put an end to the long-running cream tea dispute that has rumbled on since the 11th century.

The war-of-words has divided people in Devon and Cornwall, with Devonians preferring cream first, and Cornish, jam first.

But Darren McGrady, who cooked for the Queen and Princess Diana for over a decade, has taken to Twitter to reveal the royal protocol. And it appears the Cornwall way seems to be the accepted method. Mr. McGrady, who worked for the royal family from 1982 until 1993, said: ‘Jam first or clotted cream first?

‘Jam first at Buckingham Palace garden parties!’

Really? Yes, Really.

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