The etiquette of any function should not mean to be pretentious or intimidating. Rules and ritual are only there to prevent insult or misunderstandings and for the comfort of everyone. Like any occasion, people need to be made to feel welcome and appreciated.
Kettle & Teapot
Always bring the teapot to the kettle (or
urn) and not the other way around. A kettle is a kitchen appliance while a
teapot is a piece of tableware.
Assuming you take your tea with milk, a perennial question asked is: does one add the milk to the cup before or after pouring the tea? The answer is quite simple, it does not really matter. However, the most practical approach is to pour the tea and then add the milk, in this way you can see how much milk is required to achieve your personally desired level of mix and thus color.
The reason such a debate sometimes ensues, regarding milk, is purely historical. Originally European porcelain was made of soft paste. In order to prevent the cup from cracking milk was added to “temper” it. Once hard paste porcelain was introduced in the early 1700’s, this preventative measure became redundant. Since almost all modern porcelain is made with hard paste, it really has removed any need to establish any hard and fast rule in this matter.
If lemon is preferred to milk, provide a slice of lemon with a clove in the middle of it, to float in the tea. Alternatively provide a wedge of lemon. This should be with a lemon press and/or the wedge should be encased in gauze or cheesecloth. This way the wedge can be squeezed (with the press or fingers) into the tea without it squirting pips and pith into and around the tea! It is perfectly acceptable to place the spent lemon wedge in the saucer or onto a serving plate.
You tea should not be stirred in circular
motions, causing a tinkling sound as the metal touches the sides and bottom of
the cup. Instead, with the spoon near to the 6 o’clock position, softly – in a
folding motion – move the spoon to the 12 o’clock position and back again
Never leave your spoon in the tea cup, when not in use, place it on the saucer on the right hand side.
Never wave your cup and/or saucer around in
the air, using it to gesticulate in your conversation. Your cup should be
placed on your saucer, when you are not drinking. The cup and saucer is held in
your left hand (if standing) or in your lap (if seated) – if not placed (on a
coaster) on a suitable piece of furniture. Your saucer should never go above
your chest height.
Professional tasters and true connoisseurs will slurp tea, as this imparts a higher degree of flavour as it mixes with the air. However, even these people will sip their tea at such a gathering, as you and I should also do.
Tea is not meant to be drunk as a method of “washing” food down – please ensure you swallow your food first, finishing whatever you are masticating, before taking a sip of tea.
Appearing around 620 AD, teacups (made of
porcelain) came from china and were without handles, looking like small bowls (similar to
those still used in Japanese tea ceremonies today). So as to not burn yourself or
spill the hot liquid, the vessels were held by placing the thumb at the 6
o’clock position and the first and second fingers at 12 o’clock, at the top of
the rim. The rest of the hand splayed out and included the raising of the
little finger in the air to improve balance.
1710 saw the introduction of handles to teacups by the European Meissen Porcelain Company. The correct way to hold the cup was not by looping fingers through the handle (men’s fingers may even be too large to achieve this) but by placing fingers at the front and back of the handle. This can seem precarious and many still raise a little finger to aid balance. However, it is no longer necessary as cups tend to have the right balance, providing you manage a firm grip with your fingers on the handle.
While scones can be sliced in half, and are
sometimes served like this, it is incorrect despite being generally thought of as acceptable. Scones should be broken off in small bite size pieces (like a bread
roll) and jam and cream applied with a knife. The morsel is then popped into
the mouth without a fork to be seen in sight.
Smoke is absorbed by the tea itself, so
smoking if permitted, should be reserved until after tea.