by Guest Blogger Sarah Rosalind Roberts
[Editor’s note: Sarah’s second contribution to our blog — we hope to see more.]

A teapot full of freshly brewed Earl Grey tea, an array of cucumber sandwiches and freshly baked scones with clotted cream and homemade jam make for the perfect way to enjoy the day and see you through until dinner.

Earl Grey Cream Tea (ETS image)

Earl Grey Cream Tea (ETS image)

Afternoon tea has been a well loved English tradition for over a hundred years and was originally conceived to stave away hunger between meals.

Modern day afternoon tea isn’t too dissimilar from its humble origins, though some tea rooms now offer slight twists in their delivery.

This time of year can see establishments serving Christmassy spiced tea accompanied with luxury puff pastry mince pies. At other times of year, equally delightful themed afternoon teas can be enjoyed inspired by a summer’s day or even Alice in Wonderland.

Although the theme and presentation can be altered, the deeply rooted English etiquette can be felt in every sip.

Whenever I indulge in an afternoon tea, I feel as though I’m instantly transported to the 1920’s at Downton Abbey, enjoying a spot of tea with the Dowager Countess of Grantham, talking over the days events (or more likely, being talked into a plot that will likely cause the wrath of the Earl of Grantham!).

With season 4 due to premiere in January, perfecting the art of afternoon tea etiquette is essential for any die-hard fan wishing to hold their own event.

Here are some handy hints to help you on your way to hosting a perfectly mannered bash:

  1. Ordering of the tasty delights – the traditional order of afternoon tea is to have scones on the top tier, the savoury sandwiches on the middle and delicious sweet on the bottom tier.
  2. Stirring of the tea – we shall have no sloshing here! Simply place your spoon at the 6 o’clock position and move forwards and backwards from the 12 o’clock position. This should ideally be done to avoid clinking the china and leaving ghastly tea splashes.
  3. When to add milk – as a rule add the tea first to judge the strength of the brew. However, rules are there to be broken so if you prefer the taste of milk first, you go right ahead.
  4. Don’t forget your napkin – make sure you unfold and place your napkin on your lap to avoid any nasty spillages. When you’re finished, fold it loosely and place it to the left of your plate.

Most of all enjoy your afternoon tea, basking in Downton Abbey-ness!

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