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Hot Tea Etiquette – 8 Tips to Appear Socially Refined

While January is recognized as National Hot Tea Month, hot tea etiquette is important in business and social settings all year long.

We’ve come a long way from the straight-laced Victorian tea times when afternoon tea was first established (and even the post-Edwardian period…think Downton Abbey). Today, indulging in a cup of afternoon tea is not just for social settings among friends in your home.  Business professionals realize that afternoon tea in a restaurant is a way to set aside a few moments of gentility to strengthen business relationships.

Whether enjoying a cup of tea in a posh restaurant or in a more casual setting,  here are 8 tips to appear “refined” socially and professionally.

  1. The host or hostess may pour tea from a teapot. Do not begin drinking until the host/hostess does.
  2.  Use both hands to lift both cup and saucer to drink from. Place the saucer holding the cup in the palm of your left hand, moving it forward to rest on the four fingers slightly spread apart.
  3. If a tea pot of hot water is brought to the table with a cup and saucer and tea bags, drop a tea bag into the pot and let steep for three to five minutes.  You may need to ask for a small extra saucer on which to place the tea bag after removal from the pot. To remove the tea bag from the pot, lift it with the spoon, allowing it to drip into the pot for a moment and then place it on the saucer. Do not squeeze the bag or wrap the string around the spoon.
  4. Do not lift the pinkie finger when drinking tea or eating an accompanying tea sandwich or sweet treat! It’s actually considered rude and implies elitism.
  5. A bit of milk–some sugar–one lump or two? Milk is added after the tea is poured, not before, to properly judge the strength of the brew. If sugar is presented in cube form, use the sugar tongs to gently drop one or two cubes into the cup.
  6. After adding milk or sugar, stir delicately and noiselessly so the spoon does not clank the inside of the cup. The spoon never stays in the cup. Place it on the saucer’s upper side with the handle facing in the same direction as the handle of the cup.
  7. A slice of lemon may be floated in the cup. But, do not squeeze the slice. And no need to stir; the juice will seep into the tea. Note: If adding both lemon and sugar, add the sugar first, or the citric acid in the lemon will prevent the sugar from dissolving. And, do not add both lemon and milk to your tea. The lemon will curdle the milk!
  8. If tea sandwiches, scones and sweets are served with the tea, serve yourself from the tray with the serving utensils provided. Tea sandwiches may be eaten with your fingers. Scones are typically spread with clotted cream and jam. First, place a small amount of clotted cream and jam on your plate.  With your fingers, break off a small bite of the scone. Then using your knife, spread a bit of cream first, then jam on the bite of scone.

A cup of tea is the perfect way to socialize with friends and is part of good business etiquette when “talking business” with other professionals. These Hot Tea Etiquette tips will help you present yourself as gracious, polished and refined.

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in any of my business or etiquette seminars please contact me or call me at 918.970.4400.