A refined guide to the perfect cream tea etiquette

A refined guide to the perfect cream tea etiquette

Now you've read all about the history of cream tea in our latest issue, check out our expert guide from Miss Sue Flay (the irony is not lost on us!) on how to be both the perfect cream tea guest and the scone-wielding hostess with the mostess. It's such a sophisticated tradition you deserve to do it properly! 

Be the dream cream tea guest...

Pinkies away!
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 "6-12" motion 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.

Never wipe!
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.

And the most charming host...

Be ready for your guests
It's very easy to get swept away with the organising and forget to get yourself ready. To avoid being in a fluster when you greet your guests, get dressed and have yourself presentable before your table and treats.

Starched napkins please
The correct size napkin for your Cream Tea is 12 inches, although a lunch napkin folded in half will do just as nicely. You can find some beautiful tea napkins in antique shops. And remember - Napkin, never a 'serviette'!

Serve scones warm
Cover them or wrap them in a clean linen napkin to help preserve the heat until guests are ready to eat them. Offer separate spoons for jam and clotted cream to avoid any double dipping or germ sharing.

The Great Cream Debate
Something that always gets people talking around the table is the Great Cream Debate. The Cornish love to show off their clotted cream on top, whereas the Devonshire way is to enjoy jam on top.

My vote always goes to cream on top - and this is not just a personal preference, it’s a science… the silky dairy notes of the clotted cream coat your palate first, acting as a buffer against the sweetness of the jam and dryness of the scone beneath – creating the perfect, balanced taste sensation.

Don’t just take my word for it, the etiquette bible Debrett’s also states that the Cornish approach is the correct way to consume a Cream Tea.

Table talk
Polite table talk is something we Brits do very well, talk about the weather, table decor, music. Don't talk about money, religion or other people's bad manners.

Keep calm and carry on
Don't ask your guests for help, stay calm and even if stressed, a good host won't show it. Allow your guests to relax and enjoy their Cream Tea with you.

Give yourself a pat on the back
Enjoy and reward yourself - make sure you eat the treats and have a hot bath waiting for you after all the baking is done and the washing up put away. You’ve been a fabulous host - you deserve it!