You’ve been eating afternoon tea all wrong! Etiquette guru reveals the do’s and don’ts,


The afternoon tea was invented by one of Queen Victoria‘s ladies-in-waiting, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, in 1840.

Yet despite nearly 200 years of tradition, many in Britain still serve – and eat – afternoon tea all wrong.

Luckily, help is at hand. UK baker Warburtons has partnered with etiquette expert John-Paul Stuthridge, who has shared his top tips and do’s and don’ts for hosting and enjoying an afternoon tea fit for royalty (and Bridgerton binge-watching sessions).

Warburtons said: ‘These tips will help you rise to the occasion and make your event truly toast-worthy.’

Read on for John-Paul’s advice, which covers the ‘royal’ shape for sandwiches, why teacups should never be separated from their saucer and why it’s imperative that one should avoid raising one’s pinkie while sipping tea.

THE SET-UP

UK baker Warburtons has partnered with etiquette expert John-Paul Stuthridge (above), who has shared his top tips and do's and don'ts for hosting and enjoying an afternoon tea fit for royalty (and Bridgerton binge-watching sessions)

UK baker Warburtons has partnered with etiquette expert John-Paul Stuthridge (above), who has shared his top tips and do’s and don’ts for hosting and enjoying an afternoon tea fit for royalty (and Bridgerton binge-watching sessions)

What elements should always be part of an afternoon tea?

John-Paul said: ‘Sandwiches are the foundation. A mixture of white and brown bread is preferred and the crusts must always be cut off.

‘The sandwiches ought to be light and dainty [and they] are eaten with the fingers, never cutlery.

‘Traditional fillings consist of smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, and cucumber.’

What’s the correct shape for sandwiches?

‘At traditional afternoon tea, you may find them cut into “fingers”,’ said John-Paul, ‘but the royal way is actually to opt for a “square” cut.’

Not serving scones, meanwhile, ‘is tantamount to treason’.

John-Paul continued: ‘While the third course in hotels is usually a fancy French-style patisserie, in private households a bigger, more seasonal cake is best. Think Victoria sponge in the summer and a carrot cake or fruity cakes in the winter.’

John-Paul said that not serving scones 'is tantamount to treason'

John-Paul said that not serving scones ‘is tantamount to treason’

Any foods that are an absolute no-no?

John-Paul said: ‘From the comfort of your home, it would be wrong to say that any food is an absolute no-no, however, it is worth considering what event you are hosting – whether it be high tea or afternoon tea – and allow the menu to reflect that. We don’t want guests not having their expectations met.’

How should the tea be laid out? Is there any particular pattern?

John-Paul said: ‘The smartest way to set the table – never “lay” – at home for tea is with everything on its own plate.

‘Tiered cake stands are hospitality space-savers and nothing more.

‘A royal tea at home fit for dandies and debutantes requires single plates for each dish, allowing you to hand them around to help serve each other.

‘Tablecloths should be crisp white linen – and drape to just above the ground, not halfway.

‘Place napkins – 12 inches square – folded in the centre in line with the guest’s chair.

‘Cake forks, meanwhile, should be set on the right as they are designed to be used with your right hand, as opposed to ordinary forks, which are set on the left to be used with the left hand.’

DRESS CODE

'The sandwiches ought to be light and dainty [and they] are eaten with the fingers, never cutlery,' John-Paul said

‘The sandwiches ought to be light and dainty [and they] are eaten with the fingers, never cutlery,’ John-Paul said

John-Paul said: ‘Tea is a lovely occasion for the nearest and dearest to gather over a good midday natter.

‘It should feel grand yet cosy and homely. Smart-casual is the dress code.

‘The finest hotels will stipulate ties and prohibit trainers. Both rules you can forego at home.

‘Popping on one’s favourite blouse or shirt and blazer can be all it takes to inject elegance into your gathering. Suits? Unnecessary. Suitors? Absolutely.’

TEACUP ETIQUETTE

What’s the correct way to hold a teacup?

John-Paul said: ‘The correct way to hold a teacup is to pinch the handle with the index finger and thumb pressing the handle.’

What are the common mistakes?

The etiquette guru declared: ‘It is imperative, whether sipping from a teacup or even a mug, to never lift one’s pinkie. For the sake of maintaining majesty, keep it down.

‘I also find it uncouth to wrap both hands around the cup.’

Is it ok to ditch the saucer and place the teacup on a surface without it?

John-Paul won’t hear of it.

It is imperative, whether sipping from a teacup or even a mug, to never lift one’s pinkie

He said: ‘Not unless you desire ring marks. Under no circumstances should a teacup be without a saucer. They are a pair. Treat them as such.’

And is it milk in first?

John-Paul said: ‘You may pour the tea into the cup first, and milk second (the reverse applies only to the servant’s hall). And stir back and forth, not round and round.’

How should one embellish a scone – jam or cream first?

John-Paul said: ‘If you’re neither Cornish [jam first] nor Devonian [cream first], then it doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you apply them – remember, use ramekins with a communal spoon in each for serving, drop a serving onto your plate (never directly onto the scone), and smear one’s portion on with your own knife as you please.’

What’s the difference between high and afternoon tea?

John-Paul explained: ‘Afternoon tea is a lighter affair traditionally served around 4-5pm with three courses: savoury sandwiches, scones, and patisseries.

‘High tea features a savoury first course with dishes such as sliced meats, and even lobster and cheese soufflés.

‘The term “high tea” originates from the taller tables it was served on, distinct from the lower coffee tables associated with afternoon tea, rather than implying a higher level of grandeur.’

For staple ingredients required for a high tea experience visit: www.warburtons.co.uk.





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