Pinkies Up! High Tea & Afternoon Tea Etiquette

Words: Emma Nkunzana

At Crush, we have a bit of an obsession with the time-honoured tradition of afternoon tea. Maybe we’ve watched one too many episodes of Bridgerton, but really what’s not to love? Sipping from delicate china with your pinky in the air, nibbling on indulgent treats, all the while gossiping with your bestie. It’s absolute bliss!

The Difference Between High Tea & Afternoon Tea

It’s a common mistake to confuse high tea with afternoon tea though, as over time the lines have become somewhat blurred. Historically, high tea was a more substantial evening meal of a savoury dish or two, consumed by working classes, after a long day at work.

The concept of afternoon tea was first introduced by the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell. She became rather peckish between lunch and dinner, and found that a spot of tea, a bite of a light sandwich and a nibble of cake would tide her over until dinner — a woman after our own heart. Being a part of the upper echelons of society meant that the affair naturally evolved into a regular social event, and so the tradition of afternoon tea was born.

Get your Tea Etiquette Down

Afternoon tea service is a great British tradition that has certain best practice rules. For those of us who didn’t grow up in a castle or manor with tea as part of a regular schedule, it can certainly get confusing, so here are some easy tips to make your tea drinking in line with the way it should be…

What not to do…

Don’t add the milk first. Milk should be added after the tea so you can properly gauge how much you need to balance the strength of the brew. Traditionally, tea was added first when soft paste porcelain cups were used — it was necessary to add milk first to temper the heat preventing the cup from cracking.
Don’t pronounce the long ‘o’ in “scone”. It is properly pronounced ‘scon’.
Don’t dunk your biscuits, unless you’re on the comfort of your own couch!

What you definitely should do…

Do feel free to request different milk alternatives — full fat, soy, almond, oat, skim should all be available these days.
Do stir the tea delicately, you are not a witch brewing a cauldron!
Do eat finger sandwiches with your hands — they’re designed for and named after their purpose. Cakes tend to be more delicate and require at least a fork. A scone with cream and jam needs a guiding hand.

Now that you know proper tea etiquette, why not visit one of these tea spots in Cape Town. If you’re feeling creative, try your hand at hosting your very own tea with one of these tasty teatime recipes.

One comment

  1. Many moons ago, I administered the Tea & Coffee Association and they were adament that the milk should be poured in before the tea!!! This is merely academic as far as I am concerned as I do not have milk in tea of coffee, but add sliced lemon to my tea!

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