Tea Etiquette for hosting a tea party, how to serve tea, and get ideas for tea party invitations and ideas.
Are you thinking of hosting a tea party?
Whether you are attending a tea party or hosting one, here are some useful information on tea party etiquette.
Tea Bags Etiquette
It seems like a general consensus by all etiquette writers that a tea bag should never be served in a cup of tea.
The right tea etiquette is to brew the tea in a pot before pouring into little tea cups.
However, if you are served with a cup of tea with a tea bag inside, let it sit inside for 3-4 minutes (assuming that it is freshly made) or however strong you like before removing them with your teaspoon and placing on the saucer.
The strength of the tea can be determined by the color of the water it makes. The stronger the tea, the darker the color it will make with the water. Generally, you do not need to put in the tea bag for long if it is a good quality tea.
If you do not have a saucer, or a stirring teaspoon to remove the bag, you may simply ask for a teaspoon and a place to remove your teabag to as you “do not like your tea to be too strong.”
Tea Etiquette At A Restaurant
If a pot of tea is placed on the table by the waiter and no pouring or serving of the tea commences, the person nearest to the pot should offer to pour, filling his or her own cup last.
Chinese Tea Etiquette
This happens a lot in Asian restaurants where tea is drunk in little tea cups throughout the meal.
When the teapot is empty, he/she (whoever is the closest) simply half opens the the cap, balancing the cap in between the gaping hole of the teapot. This will send a signal to the waiter to get the pot refilled.
When someone pours tea into my little asian teacup, to say thank you, we simply tap our fingers gently but quickly (twice) with our index finger on the table. You may use two fingers to tap as well.
Of course, saying thank you is acceptable or doing both is also acceptable but in a traditional Chinese dinner, where we are seated in a round table, it might be a handy alternative to having to say “you’re welcome” to eight to twelve thank you-s.
Tea Etiquette for Afternoon Teas
Afternoon teas are little social events that you want to consider giving when you have to entertain a visiting friend, celebrate a special occasion, throw a house warming party or a bridal shower.
They are a cost effective elegant entertaining alternative to the traditional dinner and cocktail party.
A simple invitation printed on lovely paper may be issued in the mail, using these words.
Traditionally for a Victorian afternoon tea, a hand written invitation on “tea” note cards are used, which a basically very charming note cards with a printed border of roses of pansies, or featuring a very cute tea pot and the such. Those who can afford elegant stationers will send out printed (engraved, letter press, calligraphed) invitations.
Of course these days, a telephone call or email invite would suffice, depending on the formality of the afternoon tea you are going to host.
Tea and tea snacks will be prepared before hand and laid on a table covered with white cloth of linen, lace or crisp cotton.
The centerpiece is normally a fresh bouquet of roses and greenery, a bunch of daisies and baby’s breath. Candles or oil lamps to add extra warmth to the decorations. But of course, food is the real centerpiece, displayed elegantly in their wide array of colors, like this.
The loveliest teapots and teacups, silver trays, silver and bone china plates are used adding to the height of the loveliness of a traditional afternoon tea.
To learn how to set the table properly for tea – please see Tea Party Etiquette.
Tea Etiquette For Guest
The proper tea etiquette is to never overload your plate as there isn’t a limit to of how many servings you can help yourself to.
When there is a guest of honor, the elegant hostess will introduce him to her to your guests as they arrive. Both might want to stand near the door for a little ‘meet and greet’ with the arriving guests.
When you are ready to leave, you simply thank your host and say good bye to the guest of honor.
Other than those ‘protocols’, everything else is kept very casual. Guests freely move around the room, helping themselves to food and tea and talking to everyone whether formally being introduced or not.
Tea Etiquette Dress Code
Proper Tea etiquette requires the hostess and her guests to dress up. Usually in dresses or day suits, preferably in pastel colors.
Even if it is simply a tea party for the fun of it, guests should dress up. This is a matter of respect.
Women usually wear dresses or non business suits and men wear
at least a jacket and a tie.
Tea Etiquette on How To Prepare Tea Properly
Prepare the proper serving of tea with:
- one pot of boiling water (with a flame/electrical heating pad if possible)
- or a full pot of tea already brewed with proper tea leaves.
Serving of the coffee:
- Coffee also in a pot with flame or electrical heating pad.
- Beside the coffee, the cream, sugar etc as well.
- Near the coffee at the side of the table are stacks of little tea plates for guests to use as they help themselves to the plates of food. Do forget the forks and spoons!
Alternatively, you can place them on a small table nearby if your dining table is not large enough.
Tea Etiquette on Pouring The Tea
Who pours the tea?
The pouring is done by close friends or the host or the party giver.
Of course, if you are a close friend, you’ll ask if you can “do the honors”.
It is a good idea to help out when a friend has been pouring tea for others for more than half and hour.
In the book, “If Teacups Could Talk“, Emilie Barnes says
The cream goes first into the cups. (or milk)
Then the sugar, which is supposed to be in cube form only, goes in next. (I personally don’t think it matters).
Of course, before that you’ll ask how many sugars your guests want.
Then you finally pour in the brewed tea.
How do I ask for a cup of tea?
At the table, you’ll ask “May I have a cup of tea please?”
The one pouring will reply, “Certainly, how do you like it? strong or weak?” would you like cream or lemon?
If the visitors says, “Weak”, boiling water is added with sugar, cream or lemon. If the guest prefers coffee, he or she asks for it at the other end of the table.
Tea Etiquette For Stirring
Note that when you stir, you should not make a clanking stirring sound with your tea spoon.
It can be distracting. Instead, stir your tea without touching the ‘walls’ of the cup. The tip of your spoon touches the bottom of the cup though, because otherwise it would be impossible to stir.