Afternoon tea, an Autumn respite

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As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, you may be tempted to tuck into one of the gorgeous hotels along the sprawling Magnificent Mile for afternoon tea. Great idea, but do you know proper high tea etiquette? Let’s look at some often-overlooked fundamentals.

Always tea first, and then cream.

Back in the day, the upper classes were the only ones who could afford the fine China capable of withstanding hot tea poured before cream, which was used to buffer the impact. The lower classes, particularly the service classes, used inexpensive pottery that would shatter if hot tea was poured directly into it.

Never put your pinky finger out while sipping the tea.

I’m not sure how this affectation took root, but it’s bad manners. We’re drinking tea, not liquid gold. No need to make a horse and pony show of it.

Don’t stir like a hurricane.

Proper etiquette is to take your spoon and stir the sugar by moving the spoon from six o clock to twelve o clock and back and forth again. We don’t want to swirl or churn the tea, and we especially don’t want to clink the silver spoon into the fine china.

Never place your hand on the saucer.

When we’re having tea, we want to hold the cup and saucer together and place our hands under the cup. Never put the hand on top of the saucer to stabilize it unless you feel you are about to drop something.

Respect the dress code.

Most afternoon tea reservations will require a dress code of you. The best guideline is to dress in business casual at the very least. Jeans are often tolerated, as long as they are smart-looking and of a darker wash. Flip flops will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Mischaela Advani is an international etiquette expert whose knowledgebase includes instruction from protocol instructors formerly employed by the Royal Household of HRH Queen Elizabeth.

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