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Tea Party History & Etiquette

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

High tea is the most perfect and classic example of English custom. A full English tea with fanciful hats and tiered cake stands full of treats will lighten the hour for an event. Even though a tea party is still an elegant affair, the attire and décor can be modified to suite a particular theme, making it a perfect idea for baby showers, birthday parties or just a simple gathering of friends.


Traditional high tea, tea served in the afternoon, today consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones, cakes, and various pastries. Tea pots and delicate, vintage china are commonly used for this time-honored affair.

If you are hosting or you've been invited to a tea party and aren't sure how to behave, here are some pointers to help you feel more familiar and comfortable:


  • The host should extend an invitation specifying the time, location, and any special attire requests.

  • Guests should arrive promptly and ready for conversation.

  • A hostess gift is not required, but loose tea is a common gift and the great news is, it doesn't cost much.

  • Avoid placing too much food on your plate. Tea service is intended to be a snack rather than a full meal.

  • Only pick up your saucer if you are standing. If you do stand, pick up your cup and saucer together, holding your cup in one hand and the saucer in the other. This will avoid spillage.

  • To avoid linen stains, people normally do not leave their spoon in their saucer or on the table.

  • Scones are eaten with your hand, not a fork or knife.

  • Do not place the sugar spoon in your saucer as a courtesy to other guests.

Most importantly, remember that since most people do not know tea party etiquette, it's ok if you forget to follow the unspoken rules. Especially if we are talking about a children's tea party. What's most important about a tea party is enjoying yourself and the company you are in. Focus on that and these days, you can't go wrong.

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