Afternoon Tea Tips

In celebration of National Tea Day, The Lady shares their afternoon tea etiquette and how to enjoy the pleasure of taking tea...

Pouring of the Tea: 

  • Always place two fingers on top of teapot when pouring and face the spout of the teapot away from you afterwards.
  • Stir tea with a spoon from a 6 o'clock position in the cup and fold the tea towards the 12 o'clock position. Never let it clink the teacup edges!
  • Do not drink your tea immediately when serving. It will need at least three minutes to brew and the longer you brew the tea the higher the level of antioxidants called flavonoids, which research has shown to have many health benefits.
  •  It is essential to remember that milk is added after the tea has been poured, not before.
  • If you have invited your guest, always pour their tea for them.

How to Drink It 

  • Hold the cup by the handle and bring it to your mouth when drinking - avoid leaning forward to drink. Never cradle the cup in your hands.
  • Avoid raising your little finger out, the 'pinkie' when holding the cup.
  • Take small sips and don’t slurp or blow on hot tea to cool it. The cup is put down on the saucer in between sips.
  • Spread out the napkin on your lap. It is polite to leave the napkin placed to the left of the place setting when leaving.


  • Jam or cream or cream and jam? In Devonshire, it is traditional to take your scones with cream and then jam, in Cornwall it is the opposite. Etiquette experts Debrett's say you should spread your jam before indulging with a dollop of cream on top!

Sandwiches and cakes:

  • If tea sandwiches and cakes are served with the tea, serve yourself from the tier with the serving utensils provided. Tea sandwiches may be eaten with your fingers. but no matter how small always take more than one mouthful, two to three, and place on a plate in between.
  • Cakes tend to be more delicate and require at least a fork, although if macarons are served they may also be eaten with fingers.
  • Never 'dunk' any sweet treat in tea!


  • Always hold the glass by the stem so as not to warm the bubbles.
  • Sip and never 'swirl from your glass.
  • Drink from one spot to avoid lipstick stains.
  • Clinking glasses is still socially acceptable but do so from the flute and not the rim.

National Tea Day is observed in England every year on 21 April to celebrate the drinking of tea.