History in the Making

Tea Etiquette for Guests

I am an etiquette dork. I live for etiquette. I have read three different editions of Emily Post, and I do believe that every adult, male or female, should read it. I find that despite most people’s perceptions, etiquette does help to make social situations smoother and to put everyone at ease. I also drink tea like a maniac. I prefer black tea, but will drink black, white, herbal, and rooibos (no green, though). I very much appreciate the time and ritual that goes into a tea service, and now that they are becoming more popular, I can actually share it with people!

1) Put your pinky DOWN.
When drinking tea, put your index finger through the handle, and rest the remaining three fingers on the outside of the handle. Do not lift your pinky, it is considered uncouth. And your pinky will probably get sore.

2) If someone asks you to pour the tea, it is an honour.
It is considered an honour if someone asks you to pour the tea; graciously accept and pour tea for all guests. It would be polite to send a card thanking the hostess afterwards! I know that the art of sending cards is dying, but everyone likes to receive mail.

3) Tea, then milk.
Pour the tea in the cup, then add milk as needed. This allows you to gauge the strength of the tea by colour before the milk changes anything. I also personally like to add my sugar to the cup prior to the tea so that the tea will dissolve the sugar, though this is a debated practice.

4) Dress appropriately
If someone has gone to the trouble of hosting an actual tea, or you are visiting an establishment that offers tea (either high or low tea), you would be looking at day formal wear. For a female, that could mean a nice dress and a cardigan, a nice skirt and top, or dress pants and top. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should reflect the event. You could even wear a fascinator or hat! (I will never say no to a hat.)

In the near future, I will post an entry on Tea Etiquette for Hostesses!

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