Manners: they’re crucial at fancy restaurants, business dinners, social events, and anywhere you hope to impress. Grabbing a cup of tea at home or with friends isn’t exactly a manners-focused affair; pour, sip, and chat is the basis of typical American tea time. Yet our approach to tea in the U.S. is quite different from that of others around the world. From England to Russia to China, the practices and manners involved at tea time vary — and if you’re sitting down to tea internationally, there are practices to follow. All around the world, there are unique tea manners to keep in mind, and some universal truths that should be heeded, as well.
Luckily, the online culinary magazine The Daily Meal is here to help. The website recently shared the Fairmont Hotel’s “Dos and Don’ts” infographic of tea customs and traditions around the world, helping those of casual tea drinkers act appropriately at any tea time. Before you potentially embarrass yourself (or even your guests), follow these tips to adopt the customs of tea drinkers internationally.
English Tea Manners
English tea is a familiar concept — but did you know that every Afternoon Tea is a fancy affair? Also called Low Tea, the British sip their tea and snack on savory and sweet treats. It’s an indulgent event, one that isn’t to be partaken in daily. While sipping from the traditional decorative china at an English tea, make sure to keep your eyes downward, focused in your cup. It’s considered impolite to look over the brim of your cup and lock eyes with your fellow guests. It’s also important to consider the placement of your spoon, as it’s rude to keep the teaspoon resting inside your teacup. Instead, place it on your plate.
When You’re Drinking Tea in China…
Having tea in China, or with Chinese friends? Their traditions are quite different from those in Europe. Called Yum Cha, tea time typically occurs on weekends — and it’s served with dim sum. Maintain politeness by remembering to thank your host and server; it’s proper to do by tapping two fingers on the table’s surface. Additionally, don’t grab the teapot and pour your own cup. Instead, show respect by offering to pour for others first.
Japanese Tea Manners
Similarly, Japanese tea gatherings are formal and respectful ceremonies. Tea time, or Chanoyu, comes with a strict set of rules: respect the hostess by bowing to her, and make sure to show thanks and appreciation for receiving an invitation.
Russian Tea Etiquette
Finally, if you find yourself attending a Russian tea, go ahead and relax! Like American tea time, Russian teas are not formal affairs, but casual in nature. However, it’s important to always accept an invitation to tea in Russia, as refusing is considered an insult. Drinking tea together is a sign of being welcomed into someone’s home, and the beverage is served with a wealth of food that includes sandwiches, cakes, and even sausages. If you’re heading to Russian tea in another’s home, keep in mind that it’s considered rude to shake hands with someone over a doorway — stick to greetings only once you’re inside the door.
These are just a few of the international tea time traditions that exist in cultures around the world. What have you encountered in your tea experiences? Where have you sipped around the world? Make sure to keep your manners in mind no matter where you find yourself.