The Elegance that is Afternoon Tea ☕

In the Spotlight

By Sharmini Jayawardena

It’s the last word in elegance. It’s a delightful gathering of friends in conversation. It’s time to have Afternoon Tea, in your garden, weather permitting, or in your Drawing Room. The room which you “withdraw” to.

The set time for Afternoon Tea is 4pm. It may go on for an hour or two or more.

You are Invited –

Here’s an invitation I created for a themed tea party. In this case an 🐣 🐰 Easter themed Afternoon Tea Party 🎉 🎈 🎊 🥳 On the day after Easter Sunday!

On the way to the venue were placed props, hinting as to the theme of the party, a broken down clock and an enlarged playing card. The venue was decorated with a bunny and Easter egg related tablescape and balloons 🎈 resembling eggs 🥚 😁

Each of the guests assumed a prominent bunny name of their choice or one assigned to them by the hostess. In this case, the names were, Easter Bunny 🐰 , (meets), White Rabbit 🐇, (meets), March Hare, (meets), Bugs Bunny, (meets), and so on. A whole load of fun.

A piece of poetry or passage of their choice identifying with the assumed bunny names was read out by each persona.

The party highlight was the egg hunt 🤩


The history of Afternoon Tea dates back to the 19th Century. Anna, the 7th Duchess 👸 of Bedford wanted a delectable to bide the long hours between breakfast and dinner, the story goes. She had been having tea and snacks privately in her boudoir and decided to invite friends and make it altogether a pleasant affair for all to enjoy.

Low and behold, hence, Afternoon Tea came to be! You will find below, an article, discussing nearly everything you need to know about the wonderfully elegant pursuit of having Afternoon Tea and all about Afternoon Tea etiquette, that makes it all the more pleasurable.

Let me share with you, some of the etiquette that comes to my mind that needs to be observed while having Afternoon Tea.

Let us start with the most important element in the whole pleasurable exercise, which is, preparing the tea. This being essentially an Englishman’s indulgence, tea here refers to loose black tea leaves 🍂🍁 of which you now have a variety of blends.

The pure black tea leaves are Orange Pekoe, Gold Tip and Silver Tip being the top white teas. Ceylon tea being the top notch tea leaves to look for. The British originally introduced the habit of drinking tea to the modern world, from tea grown in the highland tea gardens of Ceylon and Darjeeling, India.

Today, however, other types of tea like green tea, other floral teas, and even Champagne have been introduced to the menu.

Afternoon tea is a British aristocratic pursuit, and is referred to as low tea as the tea was served at a low table where friends gathered around to converse.

High tea on the other hand was had on a high table with leftovers, by the servants, after the ladies and gentlemen had concluded having their Afternoon Tea. The term Afternoon Tea has been misconstrued by many a hotel which offer Afternoon Tea calling it High Tea!

To brew the tea leaves here’s what you must follow:

🔘 Take the tea pot to the kettle

Boil fresh water on an open flame in a kettle as the guests arrive. (Some even choose the type of water to be used. As in soft water, hard water and so on). When there’s a good amount of smoke coming out of the spout, you open the lid of the tea pot, take the tea pot to the kettle and pour some water from the kettle into the pot. You then twirl it around and pour that water out. This is all done to ensure that the pot is kept hot in the entire process of brewing the tea.

🔘 Adding the tea leaves to the pot

You add one teaspoon for the pot and one each for each of the guests and more if you want to enjoy more tea. It is best to start the process all over again for the next round of tea.

🔘 Steeping the tea

Take the pot to the kettle once again and pour boiling water from the kettle into the pot, fairly judging the amount of water necessary for the amount of tea leaves added. Cover the pot with the lid. Take the pot of tea to the table. Keep for 5 minutes.

🔘 Pouring the tea into the tea cups

Place the tea strainer on the tea cup. Pour the tea from the pot into the tea cups from slightly above the cup through the tea strainer into the cup. Do the same when pouring into each cup.

🔘 Adding milk and sugar

Observing etiquette in making tea involves pouring the tea into the cup first and then adding milk and sugar. (It is said that those partaking of High Tea, did not have fine china. So, in order to save the cups or mugs from cracking under high temperature, they added the milk to the cup first).

🔘 Stiring the tea

Once the milk and sugar is added, you stir the tea with the teaspoon, which must at all times be placed on the upper right hand side of the saucer, with an up and down motion. Some stir the tea anti-clockwise. This is supposed to stop spillage.

🔘 Sipping the tea.

Once the tea is stirred, you sip the tea and not slurp it, by holding the tea cup in your right hand by the handle. Never pass your fingers through the handle. And, never hold your little finger or pinky out! Have the saucer under the tea cup in your left hand at all times while sipping your tea.

These are the most important etiquette to be observed when having tea in this most elegant affair called Afternoon Tea.

I put together this tea set with pieces gathered from different places. My Creamer is a conversation piece by itself 😁, mimicking the larger containers that milk was gathered in when milking the cow 🐄 🐮!

The low table is laid with a table cloth. On which are placed (Top) the tiered tray, (L) sugar bowl, (R) tea pot, (Center) creamer, tea strainer with saucer, (Bottom) tea cups and saucers with spoon,  individual tea plates and napkins (not in the picture) which are smaller than those used at a main meal.
Keep the pot warm with a Tea Cosy.

Now, for the little delectables that go together with sipping tea in the afternoon.

🍰 The etiquette to be followed here is, that the top tier is for sconce, the middle tier for sandwiches and savouries. The bottom tier for cakes and other sweets. The scones are placed on top because they used to be placed under a cloche to be kept warm, in the early times of having Afternoon Tea. Due to the sconce being placed on top, the sweets are placed in the bottom tier to prevent the sweets from melting.

It is an absolute no no to serve cupcakes 🧁 ❎ for Afternoon Tea ☕️ .

🍰 Let us partake of these elegantly constructed bite size pieces of art, then, with no cutlery involved whatsoever. It’s strictly a finger affair 😊, you could say. Though, cakes 🎂 could be eaten with a fork which is provided for this purpose.

Here’s a Menu I created for an Afternoon Tea party with a friend.

On the Menu are –

Recipes for each of these finger foods, all delightfully prepared in the Leaf 🍃 🍁 🍂 Kitchen 😊, will be shared in future posts on Gournome. So be on the look out for them 😁

Illustrations by Sumiitra Sooriaarratchi

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