Tag Archives: tea

Tea etiquette or “eteaket”

I love the whole ritual of tea drinking.

Photo credit: Tuscany diet

Photo credit: Tuscany diet

In my house, ‘How do you take it?’ and ‘I’ll put the kettle on’ is often said. As a child, I drank invisible tea poured from tiny plastic teapots with Panda and Barbie.
Years later, when I add milk to very strong jasmine tea, my horrified great uncle would ask in his Hokkien dialect, ‘What are you doing to the tea?’ Lately, lovers’ quarrels would be diffused (infused?) with a mug of tea, always punctuated with a ‘Let’s never fight again.’

In honour of afternoon tea and cream tea season, as promised, here is the first of many posts on Tea etiquette or “eteaket”. Let us start with what I like to call “different ways to have tea”.

Afternoon tea at Bettys in York, dare I say it, my spiritual home. Photo: lavenderandlovage.com

Afternoon tea at Bettys in York, my, dare I say it, spiritual home. Photo: lavenderandlovage.com

1. Afternoon tea– The most decadent way to have tea. This is the tea one has in a London hotel or Bettys in York or if you are Mary Berry, in your magnificent garden. It is always served with scones, crustless sandwiches and the most delectable cakes. If you are thinking of having afternoon tea alone, well, perish the thought. This is a treat to be shared with the people you love the most.

Do not call it “high tea”
During the Edwardian Era, the name “high tea” referred to an evening snack which the staff ate, because it consisted of a substantial meal of meat followed by cake, and was eaten on a high wooden table. Our friends from the other side of the Atlantic misinterpreted it as a name for glamour and richness.

Downton Abbey staff having high tea. Credit: stylist.co.uk

Downton Abbey staff having high tea. Credit: stylist.co.uk

Champagne afternoon tea– as above but with a glass or two of bubbly. I prefer pink champagne for a touch of An Affair to Remember.

Afternoon tea at the Goring Hotel in London

Afternoon tea at the Goring Hotel in London

Gentleman’s afternoon tea– for the most discerning of gents. It’s afternoon tea with meat pies served with whiskey, and a cigar for afters. My friend Laurie, connoisseur of all fine things in life, recommends the Gents Afternoon Tea at the rooftop of the Sanctum Soho Hotel.

2. Cream tea– a less sophisticated afternoon tea, but no less special. It’s always taken with scones and clotted cream. (Jam or treacle is served as well, see variations below.) It is sometimes called ‘Devonshire cream tea’ or ‘Cornish cream tea’ in some Commonwealth countries. I tend to have cream tea when I have house guests, at country estates or a tea room.

Cream tea perfection Photo from www.europe-autos.com

Cream tea perfection. Photo from http://www.europe-autos.com

No alternatives
If clotted cream is not available, do not be tempted to use whipped cream or God forbid, squirty cream.
Avoid further disappointment and bake yourself some madeleines or cupcakes to go with your tea. I am grateful that good quality long-life clotted cream is now available. We can now have cream teas at a moment’s notice.

Devon cream tea
– the freshly baked scone is sliced in half, covered in clotted cream then topped with jam.

Thunder and lightning– as with the Devon Cream Tea but with treacle or golden syrup instead of jam.

Cornish cream tea– Jam is spread first, then topped with the clotted cream (see photo below). To help you remember which is which, think, “Cornish Cream Top”, if the cream is on top of the jam, it’s Cornish.

Cornish cream tea- cream on top. Photo: hungryhinny.com

Cornish cream tea- cream on top. Photo: hungryhinny.com

3. Teapot tea– A self-respecting household keeps a tea set of bone china, as extravagant as you dare, for times of pure luxury. (Compare an inexpensive tea set with a Wedgwood, both are beautiful). I myself have inherited mother’s kitsch floral tea set.

Beautiful daisy print tea set

Beautiful daisy print tea set

Beautiful Josiah Wedgwood tea set.

Beautiful Josiah Wedgwood tea set.







There are moments for tea in mugs and there are other moments when you can want a proper tea in dainty cups.
This is the tea set that comes out when one wants to feel indulged or when a favourite aunt comes for a visit. Loose leaf tea and a strainer is called for on this occasion. Have a some all-butter shortbread or petit fours with your tea. The joy of these days is, that they are rare.

Eteaket, the tea etiquette

Eteaket, the tea etiquette

4. Cup of tea– There is always something deeply satisfying about hugging a mug of tea in your hands. This is the type of tea with which you start your days and your weekends. One of life’s great pleasures is when, on a lazy Saturday morning, you reach over to the other side of the bed, only to find your boy (or girl) is not there. Because this means he is in the kitchen, making you a cup of tea.
This is the tea you serve to console a friend or to unwind after a long day. For a special treat, have a biscuit with your cup of tea or do the TimTam slam.

Hug Mug Photo credit www.telegraph.co.uk

Hug mug Photo from telegraph.co.uk

Which goes first, the milk or the tea?
In the olden days of yore, bone china teacups were delicate and made very thinly. Thus, milk was traditionally poured first so as to not “shock” the cup and cause cracks. Nowadays, bone china is much thicker and can withstand the 90 °C or so of recently boiled water. To answer this age-old debate, pour the tea first, followed by the milk. This way, you can adjust to how strong you take your tea.

Pour the tea, then the milk. Photo from telegraph.co.uk

Pour the tea, then the milk. Photo from telegraph.co.uk

I do hope you found this tea etiquette post useful and fun. Do leave a reply below, your comments and questions are most welcome.

Enjoy your tea,
EtiKate (Yorkshire, milky, no sugar)


Hat etiquette

The very nice lady running my millinery course told me, ‘When dressing for an occasion, start with the hat’. There might be reason to what she said; after all, it is the first thing God sees when you leave the house.

Photo credit: fashionmaverickblog

Photo credit: fashionmaverickblog

In the olden days, hats were a matter of propriety. To step out naked on top was considered rather indecent. Now they are a matter of personal choice. I love the winter months when I can go out donning a hat and it would seem completely natural. In the summer, even the daintiest trilbies worn in town attract attention. And so it should. In a great hat, cheekbones are accentuated, bad hair is concealed and unfortunate face shapes are corrected.

General hat etiquette
As a rule, you cannot go wrong if you take off your hat once indoors. A gentleman always takes off his hat indoors when in the company of a lady. When in doubt, look around you and follow other people’s lead. Gentlemen must also remove their hats whenever a national anthem is played, even if it is not one’s own. Just think of the podium ceremonies in Formula 1.

Lady Violet hosts Lady Rosamund and Lady Mary for afternoon tea. The guests wear hats. Photo credit downtonabbeycooks.com

Lady Violet hosts Lady Rosamund and Lady Mary for afternoon tea. The guests wear hats. Photo credit downtonabbeycooks.com

Traditionally, women are not required to take off their hats when indoors. Any number of Downton Abbey episodes will show the ladies (apart from the hostess, who does not wear a hat in her own home) will keep their hats on all through luncheon and afternoon tea (see picture). That said, if your hat has a very wide brim, they should be removed when dining at a table or in the theatre lest you obstruct someone’s view.

Places of worship
Some places of worship require head coverings for visitors such as in mosques and Sikh temples.
Do your research beforehand and observe these rules. It’s a good idea to pack a large scarf for this purpose when travelling.

Historically, Christian churches required women to wear hats or veils to worship. For that reason, women do not take their hats off in church, e.g. at a wedding. Men are required to take off their hats in churches.

Ladies kept their hats on in Westminster Abbey at the wedding of HRH Prince William and the former Miss Kate Middleton.

Ladies kept their hats on at the wedding of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

How to take off your hat
The inside of the hat should not be seen.
To take off your hat, hold the brim with both hands and lift from your head. Gentlemen might find it more natural to hold the top, but avoid doing so as this tends to ruin the shape, especially of fedoras. Place your hat on your lap, next to you, or give it to one of the staff for safekeeping. Never place it on the dining table.

Photo credit comptonhouseoffashion.co.uk

Photo credit comptonhouseoffashion.co.uk

Hats at weddings
Mother-of-the-bride hats, as they are known, are ubiquitous at weddings. These are the beautiful, elaborate numbers that cost as much as the dress one’s wearing. Don’t attempt to kiss in a wide-brimmed hat. It is best to wear the hat at a jaunty angle, thus leaving a clear run-up to a cheek (see photo below of Ms Denise Lewis, looking marvellous in her hat).

Olympian Denise Lewis OBE at last year's Royal Ascot

Olympian Denise Lewis OBE at last year’s Royal Ascot Photo credit: getreading.co.uk

Hats at the races
Royal Ascot is all about fast horses and fancy hats.
This year’s style guide has been released, and as ever, it reflects the pageantry of the event. Hats must be worn. For the ladies, a headpiece with a substantial base (at least 4’’ in diameter) may be worn as an alternative to a hat. Interestingly, fascinators are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure. Gentlemen must wear top hats in either black or grey. For the full style guide, visit the Royal Ascot website.

I read from a contentious source that “only the Pope wears a hat after 5 o’clock.” I thought, ‘Well, what does one wear at night?’ The answer dawned on me, tiaras, of course! Should the muses move me, I shall write a post on tiara etiquette.

The Perfect Host

I approach having house guests like an elaborate play- this means setting the scene, the performance and finally, the curtain.


Any episode of Come Dine with Me will bring to mind guests poking around in every part of the house. It’s your life and tastes that are under inspection.

Photo from innovationsworld.net

Clean the house prior to guests arrivng. Photo from innovationsworld.net

Prior to the guests’ arrival, give the house a thorough clean, and hide all your secrets. If a guest should mistakenly open the airing cupboard, all they should find are neatly folded linen.

Hosts should plan guest entertainment such as games, walks, pubs or a visit to the neighbouring stately home. Guests need packing instructions for planned activities and the provisions of your house.

The guest bedrooms must meet good B&B standards. Provide crisp, clean sheets, at least two pillows per person , blankets, hangers and towels. The bathroom should be stocked with basic toiletries.

‘Oh, do make yourselves feel at home!’

You should expect to receive a house gift. This may come in the form or sweets, wine, a house plant or a meal during their stay.

Photo from theguardian.co.uk

Photo from theguardian.co.uk

Briefly show your guests around the house; limit it to the sitting room, kitchen, bathrooms and guest bedrooms. Now would be a good time to point out the little quirks of the house, for instance, ‘The lock on the bathroom door is broken, so a closed door means occupied.”

Depending on the length of their journey, guests may want to freshen up or rest straight away. Ask if they wish to do so, and have tea ready whenever they would like it. Only after this point can you gently impart the house rules. To avoid your guests feeling like they have entered boot camp, stick to bare minimum you simply cannot abide by.

Photo from asian-central.com

Hospitality, as is tea, should be free-flowing. Photo from asian-central.com

According to Debrett’s, ‘The unspoken code of hosting is to go slightly out of one’s way in honour of one’s guest.’ Three square meals a day must be provided, plus snacks and tea whenever it’s called for.

Breakfast is a breeze as it pleases even the pickiest eaters. The trickiest part is what time to serve it as some of us are larks and some of us are owls. Let guests know if it is to be taken together or whenever they care for it. Guests must never be harried out of bed.

Your sense of hospitality must be free-flowing, but don’t be a martyr. Accept help around the house when it is offered. Constant company uses up oxygen fast, so know when to take breaks from each other. Guests are a lot like children, they should neither be smothered nor neglected.

Photo from etsy.com

Photo from etsy.com

Take a bow

Overnight guests usually take the hint after breakfast has been served. You can usually expect weekend guests to leave after lunch. When your guests prepare to depart, look sad to see them go. But if it seems like they might never leave, a quiet word should embarrass them into moving.

Sometimes you will have to cater for unexpected guests—a  damsel in distress on the doorstep or someone who overdid it at last night’s party. Hosts should apply a deceasing scale of hospitality here. Be selfless and giving at the start and let it slip once your guests start becoming a nuisance. Once tea and other comforts have been withdrawn, their own homes will seem more appealing.

Those who ‘just pop by’ do not need to be welcomed every time. In fact, since Facebook and mobile phones, it is impolite not to give warning. Unwelcome, unannounced guests should be dealt with directly. If fabricating little white lies (appointments, tradesmen doing work) is beneath you, say instead, ‘I’d ask you in, but now is not the best time.’ Back in her day, Granny used to always answer the door with a hat on; that way, if someone unwelcome is at the door, she could convincingly say, ‘Actually, I’m just on my way out.’