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William Hanson is a British etiquette coach and expert who has studied the Royal Family for years and knows the ins and outs of their etiquette practices. He spoke to Express.co.uk about the “proper” way to hold an afternoon tea party – similar to the garden parties the royals often throw.
The most important thing to serve at any afternoon tea party is, of course, the tea itself.
William said: “People can have tea in a variety of different ways – they can have it plain, they can have it with lemon, they can have it with milk with sugar, or any combination thereof.
“Tea is an authentically British drink and even children often enjoy a cup of tea, so it’s a good crowd pleaser.”
The etiquette expert explained the Queen drinks a lot of tea and her favourite is Earl Grey.
The royals will often have afternoon tea in the Palace, served with cucumber sandwiches.
Tea is the only drink served, but on special occasions, alcohol is also available, usually champagne.
But, when hosting your own afternoon tea party in the garden or on the street, William recommended going for Pimm’s.
“If you do want to do something sort of alcoholic, Pimm’s is a good one to prepare in advance,” he said.
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“Because you want to think about ease if you are hosting lots of people, whether it’s on your street or in your garden, Pimm’s is a good one to have just to hand just so that you can sort of turn the tap on or pour it into a glass.”
Like tea, Pimm’s is intrinsically British and tastes good with a variety of foods.
Speaking about food, William went on to recommend what is best served at an afternoon tea party.
Again focusing on ease and thinking about how people are going to eat (standing up or sitting down), William said: “Regardless of what you have, whether it’s sweet or savoury, always think about how you are serving it, and how the guests are going to eat it.
“You might not have enough chairs for everyone so some people might be standing up and so they might not have a table in front of them. And so, things that need to be cut with a knife, for example, are going to be more difficult for people to eat.”
William explained this is why pork pies are ideal at afternoon tea parties, as well as “pre-layered scones, so with the jam and cream already on”.
“So, always consider your guests, which is the number one rule of doing any form of party, is what I would say,” the etiquette expert added.
Scones are a favourite of the Queen, according to William, and she pronounces the word as it would rhyme with “gone”, which is the “proper” pronunciation.
As for decoration, British flags are a staple at any Jubilee celebration.
However, William warned: “If you’re going to do flags, try not to go overboard.
“So, I wouldn’t do flags on the tablecloth, on the plates, on the cups, on the bunting. I would pick one – so the bunting.
“I probably wouldn’t do Union Jack plates because then you’re eating off the national symbol, which from an etiquette point of view is never great. So, you wouldn’t eat off a flag and that’s, in effect, what you’re doing.
“Less is more,” William added.
The etiquette expert explained that other national symbols to go for in regard to decoration are corgis, crowns, and even pictures of the Queen’s face.
He said: “Anything you’re going to do is absolutely fine, but if you’re going to do it, do it right.”
The Royal Family drink their tea from china cups and eat using china plates, and, according to William, the public should do the same when celebrating the Jubilee.
Paper or plastic plates and cups are likely to blow away, and using china is better for the environment.
“I am an advocate of proper china plates,” William said.
“They don’t have to be your sort of the best ones, the ones that have granny left you – they can be your everyday ones.
“It’s much more sustainable, much more low cost, than having to go and buy paper plates.
“And they’re readily available. They’re just in your drawer. You’ve got them anyway.”
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