Etiquette 101. How to enjoy your afternoon tea with family and friends

Afternoon tea can seem very intimidating at first but once you ‘settle’ in, its not what you had initially thought it to be, at least when you know and understand the basic rules of partaking of this British tradition. It is a very relaxed yet delightful and beautiful indulgence that each and everyone should try out. You can never go wrong with tea, no matter the weather, something Mama taught me. Let me point out that everyone is allowed to enjoy afternoon tea: women/ men, old and young.

First and foremost, when going for an afternoon tea date, spruce up a bit. Please note, you do not have to be dressed in your Sunday best attire, but be decent, neat and clean. In other words, make an effort.

Afternoon tea is served traditionally between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m (some restaurants extend the time to 6pm). It was originally designed to fill the gap between lunch and dinner according to the British. Around the world though, many cite 4pm as the best time for afternoon tea . So please don’t go asking for it at 11 am or 9 pm. It then beats the purpose.

When having tea, the handle of the teacup stays at 3 o’clock, unless you are left-handed, and then you turn it to 9 o’clock. This helps with the easy movement as you sip your tea. The tea experts are never wrong. You want to enjoy your tea without a struggle- easy, nice and slow. Tea is meant to be enjoyed at every sip.

How you hold the teacup is important so you don’t drop it. It is said, (by the experts) pinch your index and thumb between the loop of the handle and then put your middle finger along the bottom of the handle to support it. I promise you this is not hard. Once you try it out, you will probably wonder why you hadn’t discovered this years ago.

Your tea spoon on the saucer must always be either on the right side or behind the cup, after stirring your tea. This is one of the reasons why your tea cup comes with a sauce. The sauce is not an ornament on the table. It must serve its purpose. Remember, when drinking your tea, the spoon has to be out of the tea cup and placed on the saucer.

Please put away your phones, sunglasses, make up kit and any other personal items either on a chair, or inside your bag. These items should not be placed on the table where the tea is served. I always ask for a small table on the side that can hold these extras.

Please don’t stick out your pinkie. I know everyone thinks that this is actually a norm. NO! It is not. Listen forget about it. Its uncouth sticking your pinkie out when sipping tea. Even my lovely British people do not advocate for this. Do not do it. Also, Ladies, don’t cup your hands around the teacup. The teacup should only be held by the handle when sipping your tea.

Never use a knife to break the scones. Use your fingers to break them into two. Scones are broken, not cut. They are freshly baked hence very soft.

Take small sips of tea. Don’t make loud slurps when drinking it. If the tea is too hot, please let it cool. Gentlemen, please i beg you not to rinse your mouth with the tea. Do not do it at all.

The correct order to enjoy the food is savory to sweet: start with the lower tier, which has sandwiches. Then proceed to the middle tier with the scones and lastly, the top tier which consists of sweets/ pastries. Please note, you don’t have to finish everything on each tier. Have a taste of each, but in that order. You can always take away what you cannot finish.

Always ask for a clean cup of tea once you are done with the tea pot. A new round of tea deserves a clean cup at all times. We must honor the tea.

Pronunciation of scones is very important. The experts advice that it is a ‘skon’ and not ‘skone.’

Always spread the cream on the scones first then top it off with the jam provided. Spread them across the entire the scone with a knife. This is one of my favorite tasks.

Your teaspoon should be at the 6 o’clock position when you are stirring, so you gently stir the tea towards 12 o’clock without touching the sides of the teacup. Slowly but very gently without making noise at the table. Place the spoon on the saucer when you are done.

Take your time. When enjoying afternoon tea, you should do so in a leisurely manner and not rush it like it’s your last meal of the year.  Time stops when you are having afternoon tea. Relax and enjoy every minute of it. Afternoon tea is ideal for dates with family, friends or a spouse, social meeting, bridal and wedding showers or a couple’s afternoon date…just any occasion that calls for happy times.

Location: Nairobi’s home for afternoon tea, The Lord Erroll. It is your ideal quintessential timeless fine dining Gourmet Restaurant in a class of its own that seeks to create memorable experiences for you, to establish an emotional connection with you, and to develop a lasting relationship with you. Make a reservation and enjoy afternoon tea at The Lord Erroll, every afternoon from 3 pm.

Mood (song); John Legend- Ordinary People

Photography: @maingi_kabera

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