The Cream of Good Manners
Delicious freshly-baked scones, a generous dollop of clotted cream and a helping of mouthwatering fruit conserve… what could be more civilised than the quintessentially English cream tea?
But don‘t just grab the goodies and guzzle away in a shower of crumbs, because like so many typically English traditions, there’s an etiquette to serving and eating cream teas.
It’s not a case of pretending to be posh, it’s a case of doing it right, and here etiquette expert Miss Sue Flay, on behalf of the Cream Tea Society, tells you how to be the perfect cream tea guest.
Hold your teacup with all fingers on the handle, but don’t loop your fingers through or cradle your teacup.
Always serve your neighbour before yourself
Pour the person next to you a cup of tea, pass the scones or offer the Cornish clotted cream before you take for your own dollop of jam.
Elbows off the table
This goes without saying. There’s a great phrase: “All joints on the table must be carved.” When food is present at the Cream Tea table, your elbows must be off and your hands in your lap when not eating or drinking.
Don’t send the tea into a spin
Stir your tea in a ‘6 to 12’ motion as on a clock. Don’t ‘whirlpool’ it round and round. Tapping your spoon or ‘chinking’ it on the side of your teacup is simply not good manners, no matter how tempting it may be. Drip-dry your teaspoon over your cup and place gently behind the cup on your saucer when finished stirring.
Dab your mouth with your napkin; do not wipe! Place the napkin with the fold away from your body to avoid throwing crumbs over yourself.
Break your scone with your fingers
You’ll find a natural crease within any freshly baked scone, so you shouldn’t need to saw it open with a knife.
Always clotted cream on top
Forget what you’ve read about The Great Cream Debate, Cornwall vs Devon. The Debrett’s guide to proper etiquette states that you should spread the jam first, followed by the clotted cream. From a taste point of view, the silky dairy notes of the clotted cream coat your palate, acting as a buffer against the sweetness of the jam and dryness of the scone beneath – creating the perfect, balanced taste sensation.
‘Please do excuse me’
If you need to excuse yourself from the table, simply say “Please do excuse me.” It is then good manners to place your napkin on your chair if you intend to return. There’s no need to go into detail as to why you need to leave.
A time to be social
Mobile phones should be away from the table, however it can be very tempting to take photos of your deliciously enticing cream tea to post onto Instagram or Twitter.
Manners cost nothing
Thank you letters are completely underrated. We just don’t write them as much as we should. A thank you text or email just doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as a beautifully handwritten note, even if just a few words of thanks. This little gesture goes a long way and I urge everybody to try it. Your notelet collection will soon grow when you realise what stunning stationery is available.