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Civility by Diana Olson:

Dorothea Johnson, the founder and director of the Protocol School of Washington, and my mentor in the late ‘80s, says, “The soul of politeness is not a question of rules but of tranquility, humility, and simplicity. In the taking of tea it finds perhaps its most perfect expression.”

Continuing from last week with Tea Etiquette Tips 5 to 11:


5. Cup and Saucer Placement: When seated, balance the cup and saucer on the knees and raise the cup to your lips. When sitting back from a low table or standing, raise the cup and saucer together, while lifting the cup to your lips.


6. Three Tiers for Tea Service: There are three courses—Bottom tier: sandwiches; Middle Tier: scones; and Top Tier: pastries

7. Placement on Cup, Saucer, and Spoon: Place spoon on the saucer behind the cup. The handle of the spoon and cup handle should be in the 4:00 position.

8. Napkin: Open the 12” tea napkin and place on lap. Blot lipstick on tissue rather than on the napkin. Leave napkin on the chair when leaving the table temporarily. Hostess will signal the beginning and ending of the tea by putting her napkin on her lap. When finished, place the loosely folded napkin on the left of the plate.

9. Tea Parties: Small and intimate gatherings; RSVP to invitations immediately; bring a hostess gift; check with hostess regarding dress code; be on time; and write a thank-you note within 24 hours.


10. Handling Scones: Scones are a type of biscuit. Split scone horizontally. Put jam and cream on the plate, first. On a bite-size piece, spread the jam, and then the cream. Eat one small bite at a time. Put knife on top of the plate with the blade facing the table edge. When finished, place the knife handle at 10:00 and the blade at 4:00. Eat the bottom half first.

11. The Process: 1 teaspoon tea = 6 oz. cup. Loose tea leaves have the best flavor and are more traditional. If using a tea bag, ask for a separate plate rather than leaving the bag on the saucer. A sugar cube is placed in the tea cup; tea is poured second; milk (not cream) is poured third, and last a thin slice of lemon. Many prefer their tea with no milk, sugar, or lemon.


Enjoy these tea rituals. They can enrich your life!

DIANA OLSON, MA, AICI, CIP, is a certified etiquette & image consultant. She may be contacted at or