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Afternoon Tea Etiquette

History of Afternoon Tea

The tradition of Afternoon Tea dates back to the early nineteenth century. Around this time Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon, to overcome this feeling a light meal consisting of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was served.

From this want, the Afternoon Tea ritual was born. However, it should be noted that it was traditionally only a small bite that has now evolved into a tradition that is frequently celebrated.

Afternoon Tea Etiquette

There are many rules and ideas about Afternoon Tea etiquette that it is believed should be followed when indulging in Afternoon Tea.


Afternoon Tea is traditionally taken between 3pm and 4pm, it is led to believe the well-known song, ‘at half past three, everything stops for tea’ is responsible for this formality.


Research suggests you should allow your tea to brew for 2-5 minutes before serving, the larger the leaf, the longer the brewing time. Our expert team will be delighted to advise guests on the recommended brewing time for your blend of choice.

Milk First or Tea First?

A good question! This is possibly one of the most debated questions in the tea world; however we believe that pouring the tea first allows our guests to flavour the tea to your own personal preference.


Place your spoon in a 6 o’clock position in the cup and fold the tea towards the 12 o’clock position whilst making sure not to ‘clink’ the spoon against the sides of the cup.

Pinkies up?

There is a common misconception about the outstretching of your little finger whilst drinking tea; however etiquette experts state that this is not the case.

Cream or Jam which goes first?

Both the Cornish and Devonshire people lay claim to the invention of the Cream Tea, and each have a view on the order of the toppings. The Devon tradition is cream first with jam spread on top whilst the Cornish tradition is to slather the jam on and top it off with clotted cream. At the end of the day it remains a matter of preference.

Despite these formalities we believe that your Afternoon Tea should be enjoyed, we are here to advise and ensure that your Park Room experience becomes one to remember.