Hot Tea Etiquette

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Updated: 1/17/2013 4:41 pm Published: 1/16/2013 4:12 pm

 Hot Tea Etiquette

Certified Business Etiquette Consultant, Rachel Wagner, shares hot tea etiquette tips for serving and drinking hot tea. Times have changed since Victorian tea times when afternoon tea was first established. Today, whether in a restaurant with business associates or with friends invited to your home, indulging in a cup of tea is a way to set aside a few moments of gentility in our fast-paced lives. Here are some hot tea etiquette tips to celebrate National Hot Tea Month.


  • Fill the tea cup 3/4 full of tea so there is room to stir without spillage if adding sweetener or milk.
  • If standing, or if sitting on a sofa or chair with no table, lift the cup with the saucer. If sitting at a table, lift only the cup.
  • Do not lift the little pinkie in the air when drinking tea! This was only done to help with balance when early cups had no handles. Today it is considered rude in some social circles.
  • Milk may be added to the cup, but not cream (cream is too heavy for tea).
  • If using lemon, place the lemon slice in the cup. Do not squeeze it.
  • Do not add lemon and milk to the same cup. The citrus will curdle the milk.
  • When stirring, swish the spoon in a small arc. Do not let the spoon clink against the inside of the cup.
  • After stirring, place the spoon on the saucer, above the cup.
  • Sip the tea; do not slurp it. But, do not sip tea from the spoon.
  • Look into the cup when drinking, not around at the other guests.
  • In a restaurant when presented with a small pot of hot water, a cup and a tea bag, place the tea bag into the pot of water to steep for 3-5 minutes. Then pour tea into the cup.
  • In a restaurant, if you’re served a cup or mug with hot water already in it, put the bag in it right away and let it steep for 3-5 minutes. Lift the teabag with a spoon and let it drain over the cup for a moment or so. Then place the tea bag onto a small plate (You may need to request a small plate for the used tea bag.) Do not pick up the bag by its string and jiggle it in the water. Do not wind the string around the bag while it’s on your spoon and squeeze it dry.
  • If scones or dainty finger sandwiches are served with the tea, take small bites.

·         To eat a scone, break off a bite-size piece and use a small knife to spread the bite with jam, lemon curd, or clotted cream (a thick cream). Then lay the knife back on the plate.

Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol

One-on-one coaching with Rachel and gift certificates for one-on-one etiquette coaching are available. Contact Rachel for details at 918.970.4400 or email her at

Viewers are also invited to sign up for Rachel’s free business etiquette tips e-newsletter, The Savvy Professional. It comes to their Inbox 6-8 times a year. They can sign up on Rachel’s website at

Rachel Wagner is trained and certified as a Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant by the renowned Protocol School of Washington® in Washington, D.C. She is founder of Tulsa-based Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol and is armed with more than two decades of experience as a teacher and workshop speaker.

She teaches business etiquette and dining etiquette skills to corporate audiences, leadership teams, and sales teams to help them maximize their own personal brand and represent their company’s brand with excellence. This training positions them to gain a competitive edge, attain greater upward mobility, and increase bottom-line results.

Rachel’s clients include political figures, small and large companies, law firms, financial institutions, and universities. Additional services include one-on-one executive coaching and family dining etiquette training.

As an etiquette expert, Rachel is frequently quoted or interviewed by national and local media outlets including Investor’s Business Daily, Tulsa Business Journal, The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, The Journal Record, Oklahoma Today, The Orange County (CA) Register, Detroit News, AmEx OPEN Forum, Kansas Public Radio, and Tulsa’s KRMG. Her popular business etiquette e-newsletter, The Savvy Professional, is read by hundreds of subscribers.

Rachel is on the board of the National Speakers Association of Oklahoma, and the recipient of the chapter’s 2011 Presidential Award for leadership. She is also a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, and Bixby Metro Chamber of Commerce.

After living “up north” in Madison, Wisconsin for over 25 years, Rachel now considers Tulsa, Oklahoma her home. She has three grown children and enjoys reading, travel, and time with family and friends—especially over a good cup of coffee or on a sunny beach. When she’s not working you might find her learning to swing dance or traveling the back roads with her husband in his ’95 red Corvette.

Gift certificates are available for one-on-one etiquette coaching with Rachel. Contact Rachel for details at 918.970.4400 or email her at

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