How To: Be Proper for Tea
Après jour a delightful tea event with the girls at the Hunter House Museum in downtown Norfolk, I thought about all of the distinct details entails preparing such an occasion (large or small): The beautiful place settings, miniature delights, delicious tea—it’s all so charming. So, how does one conduct themselves for such a splendid time? Pinky up or pinky down? Should have done this legwork before the tea time.
WHAT TO WEAR? Well, a feminine frock of course! After all, you don’t want that tea cup to out dress you!
CUP HANDLING. One word: Grace. Place your fingers on the front and back of the handle with your pinky finger tilted up ever so slightly for balance. DO NOT loop your fingers through the handle or hold the tea cup in the palm of your hand (like you would with a mug), this is rude. When you are finished your sip, place the tea cup back on the saucer, which should be on the table or in your lap if there is no table.
SIPPING. Another word: Elegance. DO NOT take big gulps to fill your mouth, but sips. The brim of your cup should have minimal lipstick marks as it should only be the mid-section of your upper and lower lips that should touch.
SPOONING. DO NOT stir your tea in wide circular motions. Hold your teaspoon at the six o’clock position, if sugar and/or milk is added, gently move your teaspoon to the twelve o’clock position. So, it is a back-and-forth movement, rather than a circular one. And NEVER leave your teaspoon in your cup; it must be placed on the right side of the tea saucer.
MILK OR CREAM OR LEMON? DO NOT ask for cream, only milk. Cream is never served during tea time because it masks the flavor of the tea. You may pour either the tea or the milk first into the tea cup, either way is considered as good manners. Lemon may be also served—in delicate slices with a fork—use the fork to pick up the lemon and to squeeze the juice into your tea. DO NOT mix lemon juice with milk, it will curdle.
NAPKIN. It should always be placed gently on the lap and should NEVER touch the table until you officially leave the table. When excusing yourself from the table the napkin should be placed on your seat.
EATING. If scones are served, split it in half horizontally with a knife. When it comes to butter and jams DO place an individual serving of each on to your plate. When spreading butter and jams it is customary to spread the butter first and then the jam. When Devonshire cream is served, a dollop is placed on top of the jam. Eat in delicate bites, never eat anything in one whole bite. Forks should be placed on your plate to the side and NEVER back on the table.