Manners & Misdemeanors

Afternoon Tea Etiquette: 10 Things to Know if You're Invited to Tea at Kensington Palace

The proper etiquette for a royal visit.
IMAGE MICHAEL STILWELL
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In the off-chance you receive an invitation to tea at the home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (or perhaps the upcoming baby shower!), then you should know that there is a correct protocol to enjoying the afternoon. While T&C is still waiting for our official invitation, we thought it best to be prepared, just in case. We asked Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette, who was trained by a former member of the Queen's household in London, for a crash course in proper tea etiquette. Pinkies in!

1. DON’T CALL IT HIGH TEA.

It’s “afternoon tea,” and the Queen simply calls it “tea.” Afternoon tea is served traditionally between 3 and 5 p.m. with tea, crust-less sandwiches, scones, and desserts. High tea is more like an early dinner, served around 5 p.m. and would likely have a meat dish component.


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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are holding their saucers because they are standing with no table in front of them.

2. THE SAUCER STAYS ON THE TABLE.

Don’t hold it in your hands while enjoying tea. You only hold your saucer and teacup together if you are standing or sitting with no table in front of you.

    3. DON’T WRAP YOUR HANDS AROUND THE CUP.

    A cup of tea isn't a cup of coffee! A coffee mug allows you to loop your thumb and put your index on the top of the handle. With tea, you should pinch your index and thumb between the loop of the handle and then put your middle finger along the bottom of the handle to support it. 

    4. MIND WHERE THE HANDLE POINTS.

    The handle of the teacup stays at 3 o’clock, unless you are left-handed and then you turn it to 9 o’clock.

    5. DON'T OVER STIR.

    Never create a whirlpool when stirring your tea (either clockwise or counterclockwise). Instead, stir your tea from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock.

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    Myka Meier demonstrates the correct way to hold a cup of tea

    6. FIRST TEA, THEN MILK.

    Don’t add cream to your tea, only milk. The hot liquid goes in first followed by the cold (milk).

    7. DON'T EXPECT A TEA BAG.

    Always use a strainer (which is placed over your teacup and then removed before drinking) when pouring loose leaf tea from a teapot. (You would not be served tea bags at the palace for formal tea.)

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    8. KEEP THE SET TOGETHER.

    If someone is pouring tea for you and asks you to pass your tea cup to them, pass with both the saucer and teacup.


    During tea, food should be eaten in order of savory to sweet

    9. EAT YOUR FOOD IN THE PROPER ORDER.

    The correct order to enjoy the food that accompanies afternoon tea is savory to sweet: sandwiches first, then scones, and sweets last. You can use your fingers to eat all three courses. To eat a scone, you simply break it in half with your fingers. Put the clotted cream on first, followed by the berry jam or lemon curd provided on top if you wish.

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    10. NEVER PUT YOUR PINKIE OUT!

    For more etiquette rules, sign up for Beaumont Etiquette’s adult finishing program at the Plaza Hotel including The Duchess Effect, a class on royal etiquette; an upcoming group course is scheduled for March 16th.

    This article originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
    * Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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    Olivia Martin
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