What to Know Before You Go to Afternoon Tea

tea table setting at Dreamcakes Cafe in Hoover, AL for afternoon tea

New to the customs of afternoon tea? Here is a bouquet of Destination Tea’s “what to expect” pointers to put you in the know:

  • Review our Afternoon Tea Etiquette tips and watch our Teacup Etiquette video.
  • You’ll see that many tea hosts require advance reservations. This makes sense as afternoon tea menus are fairly elaborate with many offerings, some of which, such as fresh scones and breads served warm, are prepped in advance to be ready to pop into the oven when you arrive. Generally, it’s a good idea to call ahead, just to be sure a table will be available for you.
  • Each menu reflects the tastes, culinary background or heritage of your host. Your server will typically identify the goodies on your tea tray upon delivery. Today it is not uncommon for tea venues to offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or allergen-free substitutions. Don’t be afraid to ask when you reserve. See Afternoon Tea 101 to get a feel for the variety of afternoon tea menus. When possible, forward the online menu to your tea companions to determine their preferences because you will typically be asked which tea you’d like to reserve (cream or light tea, high tea, full tea, champagne tea, etc.). Most often all guests share the same level tea, but in some establishments, guests can individually select their tea menus. In our online afternoon tea directory, links to online menus are included wherever available.
  • There isn’t typically a dress code for afternoon tea save some of the ritzy hotels which ask for smart casual. We at Destination Tea encourage showing yourself off a bit, something elegant or fun, as you like. See our Tea Fashion tips for inspiration.
  • Upon arrival, the first business of afternoon tea is choosing your tea. Each afternoon tea host proffers a unique tea selection. While some offer bottomless pots, allowing you to try several teas in one sitting, others ask each guest to choose one pot which is replenished as requested. As one pot generously supplies three to five teacups, we suggest choosing a variety of teas to share around the table.
  • Most afternoon tea hosts respect the social nature of going to tea, and will graciously allow you to remain at tea for the time it takes your conversation to unfold. Because this doesn’t allow them to seat as many parties in a given business day, you may take this into consideration and help keep your favorite tea venue prospering by patronizing its gift shop, purchasing teas for home and/or tipping your server generously.
  • If you love a certain tea venue and would like to invite a group of friends for an occasion, ask about the possibility of reserving the space for a private party. Many will say yes!
  • Have the most fun! We wish we were there!
Renals Freda Berlin MD Afternoon Tea