All Fingers and Thumbs: A Guide to Teacup Etiquette

Teacup Etiquette When Drinking Tea

If anybody knows what a simple pleasure tea can be, it’s the Loose Women. They’re regularly seen sipping this treasured British drink on the show, but the new series brings a new style. Instead of the customary mugs branding their names, the panellists (and their guests) will be sipping from china teacups. But, with this air of sophistication comes great pressure; do they know how to sip from a teacup correctly?

Teacup etiquette is something that has slipped slowly out of fashion since the days when taking tea was a genteel luxury, but that doesn’t mean you can’t  give yourself a lesson in the historic dos and don’ts. After all, with vintage-inspired, ‘proper’ tearooms popping up all over the country, you never know when you may be faced with a situation like this!

Teacup etiquette 101

1. Firstly – and contrary to popular belief – you should never, under any circumstances, drink with your little finger stuck out at a jaunty angle. The nobility would have considered it very improper, instead preferring to delicately pinch the teacup handle between thumb and forefinger. A more modern alternative is to simply place your forefinger through the handle, place your thumb on top, support the bottom of the handle with your third finger and let the others curl back towards your wrist.

2. Are you a tea first or a milk first kind of person? While it was, at one point, traditional to pour milk into a teacup first, this was only to prevent poor quality teacups from cracking under the pressure of all that hot water. Nowadays, the done thing is to pour milk in second, so you can use the colour of the tea as a ratio guide.

3. While some people enjoy the noise of a spoon clinking musically from the sides of a teacup, letting it do so is an absolute no-no where teacup etiquette is concerned. Stir as carefully as you can, or swish your spoon gently from side to side to avoid making noisy contact with your teacup.

4. If you are seated at a table it is considered bad manners to lift your saucer with your teacup. Instead, simply leave it on the table, and only lift it if you are drinking while standing up. Even then, it’s still considered proper to keep your teacup in contact with the saucer until it’s raised close enough to your mouth to take a sip.

a guide to teacup etiquette

5. When drinking from your teacup, remember never to try and stare over the rim, even if someone is speaking. Not only is it considered unbecoming, but by taking your eyes off your tea you risk a spillage that could soil your clothes. Look into your teacup instead.

6. Swirling around the contents of an almost empty teacup is a great way to mix in that dark layer that almost always forms at the bottom. It isn’t great teacup etiquette, however, especially if your remaining tea happened to slosh over the sides!

7. Similarly, good practice is to never hold your teacup aloft unless you are in the process of drinking from it. Rather than waving it around when you find yourself gesticulating or holding it stiffly in the air, simply place it back on its saucer or, if you aren’t drinking at a table, in your lap.

8. Finally, teacup etiquette dictates that you should never leave a spoon in a teacup. Place it neatly on your saucer instead, so if someone were to catch the spoon handle your teacup won’t end up tumbling to the floor with it.

When life is so fast-paced and stressful, it’s comforting to just take some time out and enjoy a good cup of tea the traditional way – a way that will preserve the condition of your teacups. Plus, can you name one person who doesn’t look a fool when they drink with their little finger sticking out?


Image credit: Prudence Styles /

                             Ken McKay/ITV/REX

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