Having tea by yourself relieves you of having to worry about your behavior. But a tea time where you have company present is another matter and one where good behavior can be a must. Even with friends and family where you are all at your ease with each other, there are some things that are totally egregious, either because they can cause possible harm to you or one of the other attendees, or because they can spoil the fun for everyone.
1 Gulping tea too fast
Besides a scalded tongue (and, of course, the roof of your mouth), gulping tea can be noisy and hazardous. You could have some go down the wrong opening (the one for air instead of the one for foods and liquids) and end up coughing like mad all over everyone and everything. You could also end up with the hiccups, as I talked about in an earlier article. You will certainly miss out on the wonderful flavor of the tea you are gulping.
2 Grabbing the last scone without asking
Or for that matter the last cookie, brownie, cucumber sandwich, or any other delicacy being offered. However, engaging in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who gets that last goody is perfectly permissible and more polite than arm wrestling.
3 Using your sleeve as a napkin
Worse yet is using your sleeve as a tissue. Eww! Both involve raising your arm up, which, if the weather is hot and humid or if you are taking your tea break after some strenuous activity, could result in a less than pleasant olfactory experience for those around you. Plus, your sleeve will now display whatever item was on your face. Some of the items that could greet the other tea takers around you would possibly be of a fairly unappetizing nature, to say the least.
4 Bringing along an uninvited guest
For some hosts, the more the merrier is a true motto. For others, the number of guests can be carefully planned for — steeping the right amount of tea, baking the right amount of cupcakes, etc. That extra guest can put a strain on things, although a good host will do her or his best to avoid showing any annoyance or stress. You may end up having to give up your cupcake to that guest you brought along.
5 Getting into heated arguments
Especially true if those arguments lead to fisticuffs or someone putting to use his/her latest lesson in Taekwondo. A good way to avoid this is to stay away from highly contentious topics: religion, politics, when your unmarried sister (or brother) is going to finally settle down. A good host will know how to resteer the conversation when any of these come up. However, arguments are fine as long as you can keep them civil. And no teacup throwing (unless they’re empty).
6 Engaging in childish behavior
Shooting rubber bands at other guests, dunking your cookie in their teacup when they’re not looking, making faces at them while they sip tea so that they laugh and snort some of the hot liquid through their nose. These all may amuse you but may not amuse your “victims,” and you may not get invited back.
7 Monopolizing the “facilities”
If the tea is in your host’s home, be mindful of how many “facilities” there are. Any home that has only one can be challenging. Spending a long time in it for anything other than a dire physical problem is inconsiderate of the other guests.
8 Making disparaging remarks about the tea and goodies served
We all have different tastes when it comes to teas. We also like different foods with our teas. Even Emily Post herself, were she still alive, could not anticipate everyone’s specific preferences. So it is very likely that a tea will be served that you don’t like or a food will be served that stirs your antibodies into an allergic reaction overload. A polite declining of these items will suffice with no need to dive into a minute description of how those strawberries affect you or to run through a complete description of the contents of your tea pantry in the hopes of educating your host on the finer aspects of tea. (Just invite them to your house next time and serve the good stuff.)
9 Texting your BFFs about the tea (when done during the tea)
Sure, we live in an age of techno marvels, but good manners and decorum are never out of style! Sitting at table with the other guests and busily texting and laughing and texting some more can make the others feel a bit left out. It can also be rather bad form to take their photos while they are sipping from their teacups and chomping on those cakes and finger sandwiches and then post them to your Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites.
10 Overstaying your welcome
The teapot is empty. The goodies are all gone. Time to go. Hint, hint! A good host knows how to usher guests out as well as how to welcome them in. Phrases like “Time to go” are especially useful and blunt and do the job when subtler statements like “Well, it’s been fun” don’t work.
You say you’ve never done any of these? Great! You’ll be welcome for tea time at my house whenever you want.
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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