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A guide to afternoon tea etiquette

There’s no doubt that in the UK we Brits are avid tea drinkers, so much so, that research has found a staggering 28% of the UK population goes out for Afternoon Tea at least once a month (according to the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal). With Afternoon Tea experiences increasing in popularity, we thought it’s only right to give you our guide to afternoon tea etiquette. In this blog, we’ll cover our top tips for enjoying your next afternoon tea experience, including how to dress for afternoon tea, the best times to go, down to the best teas to help it go down a treat.

What is afternoon tea?

Dining for afternoon tea is a historic tradition that dates back to the 19th century in Britain. A traditional afternoon tea often includes a delightful spread of light snacks, cakes, scones, and pastries washed down with a pot of tea. What’s special about afternoon tea is not just the appetizing selection of food, but also the way it is presented on a tiered afternoon tea stand, making it the perfect setting to gather with friends and family for both special occasions and casual meetups.

Afternoon Tea for 4 people

What to wear to your afternoon tea experience

Whether you’re treating yourself to afternoon tea at a lovely hotel, local patisserie, or a tea room you can never go wrong with wearing smart casual attire. However the dress code may vary depending on the venue and location, so we recommend checking the website of the location you’re dining at to ensure you’re matching the atmosphere of the location.

Milly's Patisserie Interior - Tree

Here at Milly’s Patisserie Florist Café, we love any excuse to dress up in a smart casual outfit. Our beautiful lilac floral settings are the perfect Instagrammable location to take the most aesthetic photos, so if you’re looking for your next photo opportunity, you’ve got it here at Milly’s Patisserie!

When is the best time for afternoon tea?

The perfect time to book your afternoon tea experience is usually to cater for a light meal between lunch and dinner. Typically, anytime between 12 – 5 pm is the ideal time to book afternoon tea however, this depends entirely on your preference. Your location may also have a set time frame in which they serve afternoon tea in which could play a part in what time you make your reservation for. Here at Milly’s Patisserie, we serve afternoon tea between 11 am – 5pm.

Top teas to go with your afternoon tea experience

With the average person in the UK drinking around 2- 3 cups of tea a day, it’s important to consider which one is best suited for your afternoon tea. Usually, an afternoon tea package comes with multiple pots worth of refillable tea, so choosing your preferred type is super important.

A classic English Breakfast Tea is the most popular type of brew to wash down all the sandwiches and cakes you’re about to eat. However, there’s nothing wrong with going against the grain and opting for a revitalising herbal tea such as Earl Grey, Peppermint or Green Tea. Overall, the type of tea you choose to accompany your package is completely down to personal preference, after all you’ll want to ensure you select an option that will enhance your overall experience.

The best order to eat your afternoon tea

Whilst afternoon tea traditionally comes on a tiered cake stand, we like to recommend eating your afternoon tea from the bottom layer all the way up to the top. Starting with a selection of savoury sandwiches is the perfect way to kickstart your tastebuds. Whilst enjoying a sip of tea inbetween, your second tier on the stand tends to be your sweet scones with a touch of clotted cream and jam (we’ll cover the debate around this order later!). Last, but not least, your top tier is usually filled with the sweetest of them all, including cakes, pastries and (our personal favourite) macarons!

The big debate, jam or clotted cream first?

A huge topic of conversation around how to eat your afternon tea, is in particular how you would layer jam and clotted cream onto your scones.

Well, we like to settle this debate depending on which location your dining in within the UK. Customarily, afternoon tea-ers in Cornwall will argue spreading their jam first, then cream. Whilst in Devon would maintain their technique the opposite way. Ultimately, this is totally up to your personal preference and natural instincts. However this debate makes for entertaining conversations across the table.

So now you’ve learned all there is to know about afternoon tea etiquette, all you need to do is find your ideal location to carry these tips and tricks out.

Here at Milly’s Patisserie, our Florist Café is the ideal setting for your next afternoon tea experience. With our packages starting at just £20 per head with a large selection of cakes, pastries, tea and sandwiches, it’s one not to miss. Book your expereince with us here today.