Tea Etiquette | Proper Tea


Serving tea was an important ritual in Victorian times, and along with it came proper tea etiquette.

The Proper Way to Pouring Tea

Generally, Victorian ladies served the tea to their guests. When using loose tea, pour the tea through a tea strainer directly into the cup. Use a bowl to hold the discarded tea leaves.

Ceramic tea pots are the best, as a metal teapot can alter the tea’s taste, and cools much more quickly.

A tea cozy, or a padded teapot covering, can be used to cover the teapot and hold in the heat, or the teapot can be placed upon a tea warmer throughout the tea service.

Tea cups should be filled about three quarters full, to allow for the addition of milk, if desired. If using a handleless cup, it should always be filled only three quarters full to allow for a cooler area near the rim, so that the hot cup does not scald the fingers. A rule of thumb is that if the cup is too hot to pick up, the liquid is too hot to drink.

The Proper Way to Pick up a Tea Cup

If your tea cup does not have a handle, picture the face of a clock.  It is proper to place your thumb at the six o’clock position, and your index and middle fingers at the twelve o’clock position.

If your tea cup has a handle, you may notice that the handle is too small to put a finger through it. It is proper to “pinch” the handle between the thumb on the front, and the index and middle fingers on the back of the handle to lift the cup.

In both of these situations, it is proper for the pinkie finger to extend outward for balance, but not for affectation.

Never raise the pinkie finger in the air to “put on airs.”

If the fingers do fit through the cup handle, it is still proper to pick up the tea cup in the previous manner, but for safety’s sake, fingers may curl around the handle to lift the cup. These larger handles may be found on larger tea cups.

Do not grasp your tea cup in the palm of your hand.

Do not wave your tea cup in the air or use it to signal for more tea.

It is proper to lift your teacup and leave the saucer on the table. When you are not using your tea cup, place it back on its saucer. When at a buffet tea, you may hold the saucer in your left hand and raise the tea cup with your right hand, then place the tea cup back into the saucer and hold it in your lap. Only lift a saucer and tea cup together when standing at a reception.

The Proper Way to Stir your Tea

It is never proper to stir your tea in a circular motion. Rather, use your tea spoon to “fold” the liquid between the twelve o’clock and six o’clock positions two or three times.

When finished with your spoon, rest it on the saucer to the right of the tea cup.

Do not leave your spoon in your tea cup.

Serving Milk with your Tea

It is generally better to serve milk with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and overpowers the delicate flavors of the tea.

You may pour the milk into the tea, or the tea into the milk.

Lemons Served with Tea

It is preferable to serve lemon slices rather than wedges with your tea. Lemons should be displayed on a small plate, along with a tiny lemon fork. Lemons may be placed into the tea cup after the tea is poured by either the server or the person taking tea.

Do not add lemon to tea that contains milk, as it will cause the milk to curdle.

Adding Sugar to your Tea

Most people think of serving lump sugar when they think of a proper Victorian tea, but it modern times it may become necessary to use loose sugar as well. When using lump sugar, never use your fingers to lift a sugar cube. Provide a small spoon or sugar tongs to transport the sugar from the bowl to the tea cup.

Place the sugar into the tea cup prior to pouring the tea.

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One Response

  1. Fantastic site. Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to several buddies ans
    also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your effort!

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