Afternoon Tea Etiquette

afternoonteaAfternoon tea is now becoming a growing trend in many parts of the world including on the rise in the UK. Therefore instead of having the usual dinner party for friends why not break the mould and serve a traditional British afternoon tea.

My idea for this blog came about after a meeting with Heather Williams who is an events coordinator. We discussed running a number of afternoon tea events in the North East of England and perhaps later on taking these events further afield.

The idea is to provide a high quality afternoon tea which will provide a review of the history of afternoon tea along with instruction on the correct etiquette and dress codes which are frequently bypassed and forgotten.

You will learn things such as which should go into the cup first – the milk or the tea.

How do you eat your scone correctly? Do you put the jam or clotted cream on the scone first or do you cut the scone with your knife or break off the piece you are going to eat as you would with your bread roll?

Most reputable establishments require a smart casual dress code for afternoon tea. Did you know that before the second world war, an essential item of clothing for women was called the tea gown. The material for this gown was usually light, floaty and probably floral pattered. Nowadays this specific item is no longer required. Nevertheless, it is still acceptable for women to wear a pretty summer dress with a light cardigan or jacket if required. Hats are still often worn at afternoon tea parties. Men are to be smartly dressed. Sportswear and trainers would not be acceptable dress wear.

Ideally, depending on the weather, afternoon tea would be served outdoors in a garden setting. If however the weather is cold or it is raining it is fine to serve afternoon tea indoors.

A good idea is to seat people at small tables with no more than six guests at each table. Dress the table with a linen cloth and small afternoon tea napkins. For each guest place a medium sized tea plate with matching tea cup and saucer preferably in fine bone china. Cutlery consists of a tea knife and cake fork along with a tea spoon. Place your sugar or sugar lumps, jam and clotted cream into small matching bowls. Invest in a three tier cake stand to accommodate your sandwiches (without the crusts), pastries, cakes and scones.

There are many varieties of tea so this can be a matter of personal preference. The most common are Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and Green Tea. It should always be loose-leaf tea and never tea bags. Each table should have its own tea pot with an extra jug of boiling water and a milk jug.

Failing a musician playing beautiful music at a grand piano, it is a good idea to provide a background of suitable light music!

So now everything is arranged, do enjoy your afternoon tea party and keep an eye on my website at to join us when we start putting on our afternoon tea events.

About the author

Ellen is our Business & Social Etiquette Blogger. You can reach Ellen on: Etiquette and Manners, Facebook, Linked In

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1 Response
  1. heather_williams

    What a wonderful article Ellen! There are so many things to learn about afternoon tea etiquette, I am very keen to get started. I am looking forward to Ellen Russell teaming up with Talking Point Events.