The Dos and Don’ts of Afternoon Tea with English Pastry Chef Will Torrent

Will Torrent
Photo Courtesy of Loupe Images / Matt Russell

In our newest January/February British baking-themed issue, award-winning English pastry chef Will Torrent, divulges the dos and don’ts of the beloved British activity of afternoon tea. We’ve excerpted five etiquette tips Will, who is also the author of Afternoon Tea at Home (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016), shared with us. For the full scoop on afternoon tea, order our British Issue or grab a copy on newsstands! 

1. Difference Between a “High Tea,” “Low Tea,” and Cream Tea:

“High tea” is more like an early dinner taken at around 6 p.m. and is traditionally more regal than “low tea,” which is more similar to afternoon tea. “Low tea” consists of sandwiches and sweets taken in the afternoon. Cream tea is a simple afternoon tea consisting of scones, clotted cream, and jam.  

2. An Inviolable Rule of Afternoon Tea:

You should eat the savouries, such as sandwiches, first, followed by the warm scones, and finish with pastries or small cakes.

3. Scone Etiquette:

Never cut a scone with a knife—you should gently break the scone in two with your hands.

4. Who Should Pour the Tea:

The host should start proceedings and introduce the “delicacies,” but then get everyone involved with the pouring of tea or cutting the cakes.

5. Common Misconception to Ignore:

You don’t have to put your pinky up when you sip your tea! I think people imagine afternoon tea is only for very posh and wealthy people, but it’s not. It’s for everyone. For me, it’s the best way to bring people together and start conversations over great food. That’s what’s important.


(Photo excerpted from Afternoon Tea At Home by Will Torrent. Published by Ryland, Peters & Small, 2016. All rights reserved.)

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