High Tea Etiquette

High tea is coming back into fashion. It is a great way for people to make friends and network in a pleasing environment.

This should be a time for you to enjoy yourself. Being aware of the etiquette involved in taking high tea will ensure that you can relax without worrying about whether you are showing your lack of knowledge of the correct etiquette skills.

High tea is a British invention, and the British love protocol, so it becomes easy to understand why there are rules to correct behavior. They aren’t hard and fast rules, and no one is going to ask you to leave if you cut your scone with a knife. The etiquette is there to make a formal occasion more enjoyable for everyone.

So, here is a crash course on high-tea etiquette:

  • High Tea was once traditionally held between 5-7pm, and was a substantial meal held at a ‘high’ table. However, you will see networking events entitled “High Tea” at just about any time of the day, primarily as an Afternoon Tea.
  • Your invitation should say something like “5pm for 5.30pm” This means that they would like to begin at 5.30pm, so you should aim to arrive up to half an hour before that in order to get your seat, say hello, etc.
  • Napkins should be folded diagonally, then placed on your lap with the crease towards your stomach.  As you now have two layers, you can use the top triangle to wipe your fingers, leaving the bottom one to protect your clothes.  Napkins are to be placed on your chair when you get up, and to the left of your plate when you are finished.
  • Simple tea etiquette
    • Remember that you put the tea in first (usually with a strainer), then add milk and sugar to taste.
    • Pinkie fingers should stay down unless it is a miniscule china cup and you need your pinkie to keep balance.
    • Try not to stir your tea because it makes so much noise.  Sweep your teaspoon from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock a few times instead.
    • The teaspoon should never stay in your cup.  Place it on the right hand side of your saucer.
  • High Tea often involves three platters: Scones, Sandwiches and Sweets
    • Scones: A finger food, however use a utensil to put the scones onto your plate.  If you would like jam and/or cream, then place as much as you think you will use on your plate.  Break the scone in two like a bread roll (with your fingers), then break off a bite-sized piece.  You can then use your knife to apply any jam or cream to your piece, then pop it in your mouth.
    • Sandwiches:  Another finger food. (Isn’t this easy) Again, use utensils to put them onto your plate, and break off one bite-sized piece at a time.
    • Sweets: If these can be eaten with your fingers, then good and well, but on most occasions you will find that you will need to use your fork and spoon to eat your desert.

I know that many of my colleagues may say that this is an afternoon tea and not a high tea, but I believe in going with the current trends.  While high tea should strictly be a substantial meal, the reality is that it is a term used for many networking events, and provides only light refreshment.

Well, I hope that was quick and painless.  Enjoy yourself!

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