“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
Henry James

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon tea is a mid-day light snack or meal made up of dainty savories, scones with clotted cream and jam, and sweets.

What is the History of Afternoon Tea

In England during the 1840s, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford would become hungry in the late afternoon, around 4pm. The Duchess didn’t want a full meal since dinner was just four hours away at 8pm.  She started with a small snack and tea, but eventually this tradition developed into what we consider Afternoon Tea with small bites of tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and sweets.

The custom of Afternoon Tea became a social occasion once Duchess Anna began inviting friends to the afternoon event. It became a social gathering for women in the upper class as well as aristocrats.

Tier Stand

What time is Afternoon Tea served?

Afternoon Tea is usually served between lunch and dinner, which occurs between the hours of 3pm and 5pm.

Approximately how long is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea usually lasts about 2 hours.

How should I dress?

Afternoon tea is a relaxing experience. However, it is a rather formal event so you will want to dress the part. Business casual is the minimum.  It’s a wonderful reason to get dressed up!

What is the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?

Here is an article that delineates the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea.  Click here to learn the difference,

Is there an order that one should eat during an Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea is served in three courses, usually on a tiered stand.  You should eat the savories first, which should be located on the bottom tier. On a three-tiered stand, the scones should be located on the middle tier and eaten second. Finally, the sweets should be located on the top tier and eaten last.

What is the proper way to eat a scone?

Start by scooping an appropriate portion of clotted cream and preserves onto your plate using the small utensils provided.  Next, break off bite-sized pieces of the scone using your hands. Then, use your knife to spread the clotted cream and preserves onto a piece of scone.  Finally, repeat with each piece of scone until finished.


Are utensils provided or do you use your hands to eat the food?

The tea sandwiches, scones, and sweets are all to be eaten with your hands.  Utensils are only used when spreading clotted cream and preserves onto the scones. You may require a fork if your dessert is a bit messy and requires some assistance.

Dessert with Fork

Should I raise my pinky finger when drinking tea?

The proper way to hold a teacup is to use your thumb and index finger to hold the handle.  The third finger rests on the handle with the pinky finger remaining beside the third finger.  It is considered improper to raise your pinky finger.

Where should I place my utensils?

Never place a utensil that has been used back on the table. After a knife or fork has been used, place it on a dish. This also applies to your napkin. Once it has been placed on your lap, never put the napkin back on the table. Instead, put it on your seat if you need to leave the table.

Where should I put my teaspoon?

After using your teaspoon, place it on the saucer, behind the teacup. Do not drink the tea with the teaspoon still in the cup.

May I add milk to my tea?

If black tea is being served, feel free to add sugar or milk.  However, do not add sugar or milk to white tea or green tea. They’re meant to be consumed without anything added.

Tea with Milk

Do I drink from the teacup with the saucer?

Proper etiquette dictates that the teacup and saucer should be no more than 12 inches away apart. Therefore, if you’re sitting at the table, you shouldn’t need to raise the saucer with the teacup.  However, if you’re finished with the food portion and are leaning back and away from the table, use the saucer. You should keep the saucer at waist level while you sip from the teacup.

How do I ask for more tea?

Good quality loose leaf tea should produce multiple infusions or steeps. Instead of asking for more tea, ask for more hot water to steep the tea a second or third time.

What is Royal Tea?

A Royal Tea is served just as Afternoon Tea is served, with sandwiches, scones, sweet treats, hot traditional cups of tea as well as glasses of champagne or sparkling alternatives such as prosecco.

Royal Tea

What is Cream Tea?

Cream Tea is a shortened version of afternoon tea with only the scones course served with clotted cream and jam. No savories or sweets are served.  Cream Tea is a snack most often associated with the West Country, i.e. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset. It usually consists of scones, clotted cream or butter, strawberry jam, and of course, tea.

Cream Tea

What is Light Tea?

Light Tea is similar to a Cream Tea.  However, one or two savory or sweet choices are added to complete the experience.

Light Tea

What is Strawberry Tea?

Strawberry Tea combines a Cream Tea with the added treat of fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Tea