Tea time isn’t what it used to be back when Anna, Duchess of Bedford, invited some of the other ladies of Queen Victoria’s court to her private chambers for an afternoon pick-me-up. These days, it’s anything from the Red Hat Ladies gathering at one of the local tea rooms to you taking advantage of a quiet moment in your day to imbibe a cuppa and a treat. In the case of the non-solo tea time, certain etiquette matters are de rigueur and logically, therefore, breeches of this etiquette (known as faux pas, or “missteps”) can mar the event for all.
In the spirit of goodwill towards all tea drinkers, and to save you from either embarrassing yourself or having to endure a tea time companion’s unappetizing behavior, I present the top 5 tea time faux pas:
1 Pouring tea into your saucer. You may have seen folks in movies pouring tea into a saucer, blowing on it to cool it, and then slurping it up from the saucer. This used to be a common practice, but these days it’s considered to be less than genteel. Spare your fellow tea drinkers the sights and sounds of this way of cooling your tea.
2 Letting your spoon clink against the side of the teacup or mug. Odd noises seem to be a real peeve at tea time, from bodily functions gone awry to life going on around us being less than low decibel. So, why add to the cacophony by engaging in an overly rambunctious and noisy stirring of the tea where your spoon assaults the sides of your teacup or mug in a manner that produces notable clinkage? In polite society, such a sound is considered “velly bad mannuhs!”
3 Grabbing the last cookie/scone/etc without asking first. Sure, those cookies are super scrumptious and made by expert hands from the freshest ingredients and the scones are still fragrant and warm so that the butter or clotted cream melts on them. No one can blame you for wanting to grab that last one, but this is just plain bad manners, either at tea time or any other occasion where you have guests or are a guest. So, be on your best behavior and have the good grace to ask the others in attendance before you grab.
4 Draining the last drop from the teapot. There are actually two issues here: first that the last drop in the teapot may be a bit unsavory, the “dregs” as they are often called; and second that, just as with number 2, you should ask the other attendees first or at least offer to steep a refill.
5 Criticizing the tea, treats, teawares, etc. The most egregious of tea time behavior. Your host may not be the perfect tea time presenter, but you could refrain from voicing your observations of this. His/her effort — unlike with some activities — is what counts. The cookies might be the stale, store bought variety, and the tea might be one of those mediocre bagged things from the local grocer, but you grin and bear it and when it’s your turn to host, you make sure everything is tip top!
As trite as these things may seem, they go a long way to having a pleasant tea time, which is, after all, the goal!
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