It's the little things that you do at the dining table that reveal so much about your manners.
Handling the iced tea glass, the teacup, the teaspoon, the tea strainer, the teabag, the sugar tongs, and the sweetener packets...What do you put in the teacup first--the tea or the milk? When is the lemon slice added? What about the sugar cubes? Remember, Afternoon Tea is a ritual, complete with a set of etiquette rules.
Handling the Iced Tea Glass
If iced tea is served, there is proper etiquette to observe. Properly served, iced tea is served in a tall goblet with a doily and a saucer (or a bread plate) and an iced teaspoon. The iced teaspoon would be placed on the outer right of the place setting at an angle. If the spoon is used to stir your tea after adding sugar, the teaspoon is either placed on an iced teaspoon rest provided or placed on the saucer. If there is no saucer provided, the spoon should remain in the glass at all times. Oh yes! It is actually quite easy to drink your tea and hold the teaspoon in the glass. Press your index finger against the iced teaspoon, while holding the goblet, and sip your tea! If you practice this, those around you will surely think you are the most proper person ever! Why?...because you handle it with such grace. Remember that once used, a utensil is NEVER placed back on the table.
Handling the Teacup
When handling the teacup, place the index finger through the handle, with the thumb placed on the top of the handle to support the grip, and the second finger below the handle for added security. The next two fingers naturally follow the curve of the other fingers. It is considered an affection to raise the pinkie finger while sipping your tea. No matter how many cute photos you see on the internet of little girls sipping tea with a raised pinkie...don't commit this tea etiquette faux pas--you'll end up looking like a mafia character!
Remember that if you need to hold the saucer, rest the saucer comfortably on your open left hand and steady the saucer with your thumb resting on the rim. Don't forget to look into the teacup when sipping your tea...not around the room!
Handling the Teaspoon
If hot tea is served, remember to softly fold the liquid when adding sugar or milk and then place the teaspoon on the saucer behind the handle. Here's a tip from Miss Janice: When displaying teacups, always place the handle at 4 o'clock and the place the teaspoon behind the handle. I worked in the China Department at Dillard's Department Store and walked around all day long obsessively positioning the handles of every teacup and mug to the 4 o'clock position! Y'all, these things will be noticed!
Handling the Tea Strainer
When loose tea is placed directly into the teapot to steep, you will need to use a tea strainer as you pour the tea into a teacup. Depending on the type of strainer, you will place it over the teacup or set it on the teacup and pour the tea through it.
Handling the Teabag
If you are served hot water and a teabag, allow the teabag to steep in the water for approximately five minutes (or the strength you prefer). Do not dunk the teabag or wrap the string around your teaspoon to drain it. Place the used teabag and wrappers on a separate saucer.
Handling the Sugar Tongs
If sugar tongs are used for cubed sugar, remember that the tongs should never touch your tea and are placed by the sugar bowl or draped over the handle of the sugar bowl.
Handling the Sweetener Packet
Use the packets provided and tuck the empty packet discreetly under the edge of the saucer.
What Goes in the Teacup First?
The tea is always poured in first, then add the sugar or honey, a lemon slice, and milk (not cream). You shouldn't use milk and lemon together because the acid from the lemon will curdle the milk.
Tea and dining faux pas are up next! You don't want to miss these...people do talk y'all!
Remember, manners really do matter!