Afternoon Tea 101: Course Order

Traditional afternoon tea is served in three courses and usually on a three-tiered tray alongside a pot of tea. This illustrated guide shows what order afternoon tea should be eaten.Afternoon Tea Courses

It’s not surprising there is such a thing as afternoon tea etiquette since it can be quite a formal (*ahem* dare I say civilized) affair. There are lots of rules to follow if you want to have proper tea which can be intimidating if you don’t know them.

RELATED: Afternoon Tea 101: Afternoon Tea and High Tea Definitions

The first few times I went for afternoon tea, I had no idea what was to be eaten first since everything comes out at the same time, usually on a three-tiered tray. I would just eat whatever caught my eye first.

Over time, I learned the proper order and that made me feel so much more comfortable since I knew I was doing afternoon tea the right way.

8 Common Afternoon Tea Etiquette Mistakes

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Let’s get started on the courses.

First Course

Tea sandwiches and savories are eaten first. These are small bites that can be eaten in 2-3 bites. It’s funny how afternoon tea, which is seen as so formal requires eating with your fingers.

Eye the sandwiches and savories first before touching one to bring to your plate. You definitely don’t want to be touching anything on the tray that you’re not going to be eating. Eat off your plate. Don’t place a bitten sandwich back on the tray but I think that goes without saying.

Finish all the tea sandwiches and savories before moving onto the second course.

Second Course

Scones. Well, scones served with jam and clotted cream is eaten next with your fingers.

I did a whole post on how to eat a scone properly so you may find that helpful.

Again, just touch the scone that you’ll be eating from your plate. Scoop a little of the jam and clotted cream using the spoons that are provided with the condiments and put them on your plate.

Knives are used to slather on the jam and cream onto your scones but the scones are eaten with your fingers.

Don’t cross-contaminate the jam and cream and the serving spoons. You don’t want to use the cream spoon to scoop the jam. Most importantly, don’t use the serving spoons to put the jam or cream directly on your scone.

RELATED: Afternoon Tea 101: Clotted Cream and Devonshire Cream

Third Course

The sweets are the third and final course. This course is also eaten with your fingers.

All pastries and sweets should be small, each one gone in 2-3 bites. Please, don’t be an animal and lick all the sweets and call dibs.

RELATED: Complete List of Places for Afternoon Tea in NYC

8 Common Afternoon Tea Etiquette Mistakes

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//Illustration by Alia Phibes//

 

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8 Comments

  • Pam
    6 years ago

    since i'm such a "visual" person, this post really spoke to me. ha! thanks and LOVE the artwork by Alia!

  • 6 years ago

    Great visual. I went for tea this Sat with my Jane Austen group to a place called Chat Noir. Not sure if you ever been there. It is small place, and not fancy, but the food is tasty and they use loose tea. it is in Rockville center. Love their scones (butterscotch ones are my favorite…and their Croque Monsieur sandwiches are great, also the salads etc. Thought I would pass it on to you.

  • Michele P
    6 years ago

    I really love this illustration and thanks for the helpful tip!

  • Hi Pam, HAHA, yes, I can see how it appeals to you since you ARE such a visual person!

    Hi WInnie, mmm, butterscotch scones sounds amazing! I'll make a note of Chat Noir. Thanks!

    Hi Michele, glad you found the tip helpful!

  • Hi Russell,

    Agree, Alia's illustration is adorable!

  • Russell van Kraayenburg
    6 years ago

    How cute is that little graphic! I love it.

  • pam
    2 years ago

    Hi I always put the warm scones on the top tray so I don’t melt the desserts lol

    • Jee
      2 years ago

      Hi Pam, how warm are your scones that they would melt the desserts?!

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