Etiquette and protocol for afternoon tea

Lifestyle Etiquette and protocol for afternoon tea

Hortesnia Orsini, Director of the Institute Protocol and Etiquette, is a protocol expert and consultant advising individuals and companies about etiquette and protocol and how to make the best impression. Hortensia was able to give two informative talks as part of the LRC Private Workshops, about how to prepare the perfect afternoon tea. She reminded us that this is information to put into practice when lockdown is lifted.

As part of the first workshop she focused on afternoon tea. She informed viewers on how to set the table to ensure guests had everything they needed and that the table looked beautiful. She advised to start with a large flat plate on the bottom on the place setting, not to eat from, but to provide a base for your plate, cup and saucer and then the correct size of cutlery for this kind of social event, recommending a medium sized knife, fork and spoon to allow guests to eat the selection of savoury and sweet treats and without requiring additional cutlery. She noted that the most used types of china feature flowered patterns, but that you can be free to choose the type of china which fits with your home and tastes. Last but not least on each place setting, you need a napkin or serviette, beautifully presented of course.

She recommended having a tray with different infusions and speciality teas, alongside the tea pot with your chosen tea, to offer guests a choice. You can also add in beverages of your choice, such as a glass of champagne to begin, or coffee as an addition to tea. She also said that we need to think about all the options your guests might need, such as sugar, sweetener, honey and lemon and have those displayed and ready to ensure you don’t need to leave the table. You also need to give all your guests a glass of water to accompany their tea.  It is important to have tongs and tools to serve the food, so that you and your guests do not need to use their fingers.

Hortensia was very clear on the importance of name cards to define where on the table your guests should sit, to ensure the right mix, adding a degree of formality and making everyone feel special.

Dress code for an afternoon tea can be specified by the hostess, but normally women will wear dresses or skirts to the knee, which are elegant and tasteful and men should wear a jacket. Check with your hostess if there is a specific dress code, such as a hat, or fascinator.

Viewers asked questions during the session such as what should we do if one of the guests has an allergy. Hortensia advised to ask on the invitation if there are any dietary requirements or allergies so you can prepare for it.

She suggested to start in the living room and then invite the guests to make their way to the table and find their place setting. She advised that you should take note of the actions of your host and allow her to take a seat first. Once you are seated, start by putting the napkin on your lap, move your cup to one side and help yourself the delicacies on offer. She recommended that when drinking the tea, bring the cup and saucer up to chest height and using your thumb and forefinger grasp the handle and use your middle finder to support under the handle and enjoy. When you have taken a sip, replace the cup and saucer onto the table. Make sure that you do not leave the saucer on the table, but move it with the cup at all times to catch any drips. When you are finished, put your napkin on the right of your plate, as this signals that you are finished and that they can clear the table.

She also recommended that it is important to take a small gift to present to your hostess if you attend an afternoon tea and that the day after that you should follow up with a thank you note to ensure you have followed the correct protocol.


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