Do not worry about following any rules you have heard about tea party etiquette perfectly. Depending on the formality of the situation or the relationship you have with guests, following certain rules may not be appropriate for the circumstance, so always use your best judgment. The most important thing is that you and your guests are comfortable and enjoying yourselves.
Proper etiquette starts with the example of the host or hostess. At the beginning of the tea party, be sure to make introductions and start conversations between guests that may not know one another. Because tea was such a valuable commodity in Victorian times, pouring the tea was an honor reserved for the hostess or granted to a special guest. Make sure that everyone’s cup is refilled frequently and ask a trusted friend to serve the tea if you have other preparations to complete at the moment.
Below are some important tea party etiquette tips for hostesses and guests alike:
- Keep the teacup and the saucer together if there is a large distance to cover to your mouth. When taking a sip, lift the teacup by the handle and hold the saucer beneath it with the other hand.
- Do not extend the pinkie when sipping tea. It is not proper and only looks silly and pretentious.
- Avoid making loud noises with the tea accessories such as clinking the teaspoon against the cup when stirring the tea or dropping the spoon into the saucer.
- Never place soiled utensils on the tea table as these may stain the linens. Place a used teaspoon on your saucer behind the cup and rest your utensils on your plate between bites.
- Do not wipe your mouth with a napkin. Use a blotting motion instead. Also if you wear lipstick, do not blot it with the linen napkin as this could create an unsightly stain. Keep a tissue handy for this purpose and use it discreetly.
- When leaving the table, do not place your napkin back onto the table but leave it in your chair instead.
- At the end of the meal, the host or hostess should be the first to pick up his or her napkin (of course after observing that the guests are finished). Do not refold the napkin. Instead, pick it up by the center and place it on the left side of the plate.
- If you are wearing gloves, do not shake hands without removing them. Be sure to not eat or drink with them on as well.
Tea party etiquette takes only a little practice until it becomes second nature. When in doubt, watch others around you and copy them if their behavior looks appropriate. If you are unsure but act with confidence, it is not likely that others will notice a mistake.