Afternoon tea etiquette

It’s a great British tradition, and one of the highlights of our day at the fair. Yes, it wouldn’t be a true day out at Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair without a spot of afternoon tea.

Our delightful tearoom serves delicious homemade sandwiches and cakes and tea served in delicate vintage cups, all whilst our glamorous live songstress entertains our shoppers with song from a bygone era.

The tradition of afternoon tea arose in the 19th century when the Duchess of Bedford decided to partake in a cup of tea and a light snack mid-afternoon to stave off hunger until dinner. She then decided to invite friends to join her in this, followed by a turn about the gardens and the trend soon caught on with the rest of the society ladies, and then the entire country.

As you might expect with a pastime so steeped in history, it comes with its own dedicate etiquette. Familiarise yourself with our guide to afternoon tea the ‘proper’ way ahead of our next fair:

  • Place your napkin on your lap. Small serviettes, like those at afternoon tea, can be folded completely out whilst larger napkins should be folded in half with the fold facing the body.
  • The host or hostess should pour tea one at a time and pass it to the guest before pouring the next cup of tea.
  • The spout of the teapot should face towards the host or hostess.
  • To stir your tea, start in the 6 o’clock position of the cup and gently stir the tea clockwise. Do not chink the spoon on the side of the cup or leave the spoon in after stirring.
  • Contrary to popular belief, do not hold your pinkie out while sipping from the cup. It was thought that this would aid the balance of the cup when taking a sip but that is simply not true, so you will just end up looking rather silly. Gently lift the handle and tip, don’t touch the rim of the cup.
  • Dunking anything in your tea is the biggest social faux pas you can make.
  • When you finish your tea, wait until all others have finished their tea before removing your napkin. The host or hostess will usually wait until everyone has finished and be the first to do so. Only then may everyone else remove their napkin and place it to the left of the plate.

Most of all, enjoy yourself, relax and always thank the host or hostess.

See you in the tearoom on 31st May at the Old Finsbury Town Hall, Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4RP. For full details: click here.

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