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The Queen's Diamond Decades + Afternoon Tea 101

It’s time for tea – KCTS 9 will be featuring The Queen’s Diamond Decades in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and the sixty years she’s reigned over England. Travel to England, indulge in the scandals, and relive the journey of her six-decade rule. The six-part series will air starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 23.


In 1952, the sudden death of King George VI changed Elizabeth's life forever. At just 25 years old, she came to the throne. At that time, she was mother to Prince Charles, three, and Princess Anne, 18 months old. Britain was still bandaging its war wounds and the coronation sparked the biggest party since VE Day. Terrible floods brought England back to earth and the Suez Crisis took the U.K. to the brink of war. As the 1950s drew to a close, Queen Elizabeth II had made a dazzling impression on the world.




Welcome, pupils, to Afternoon Tea 101. Prepare for the Queen’s arrival with a spot of tea! We’ll teach you to sit, sip, and stir the ole fashioned English way.


Reading up on the English tea traditions, you may have noticed that the Brits have several different kinds of tea – everything from high tea, low tea, and even cream tea. We’ll learn about the most common tradition: afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea is usually a light meal in the early evening. Most take afternoon tea between the times of 4-6 p.m. – perfect for you to indulge in during Tea Time! Loose leaf tea is served with milk and sugar. Accompaniments usually include scones, finger sandwiches,small desserts and savories (small appetizers).  



You’ll find that each teahouse you visit may run the schedule of events a little differently. Typically, you’ll find that the ritual for afternoon tea service proceeds as follows: Tea, scones (with cream, jam, and lemon curd), a sweet treat to cleanse the palette (usually a small dollop of sorbet), then the curate stand (containing three tiers of food).

When you go out to tea, you’ll notice that your server will present you a curate stand containing several tiers of food. Depending on the teahouse, afternoon tea will generally consist of a stand with three tiers of serving plates. You’ll notice that the tiers tend to get larger as you look from top to bottom. The rule of thumb is to eat starting from the top to the bottom.

What each tier might contain (from top to bottom):

  • Tier 1: Scones
    • The Brits dearly love their tea and scones! Remember: top to bottom. Here is your starting point. 
  • Tier 2: The main dish.
    • Depending on your teahouse and what your taste buds felt like ordering, this is the bulk of your meal. The bottom tier most commonly contains savories and “finger sandwiches” - here, you can indulge in small pieces of tuna, watercress and cucumber sandwiches. 
  • Tier 3: Savories and sweeties
    • Here’s the fun part – all the yummy, sugary treats! On this plate, you might find small cookies, cakes, pastries and "petit fours.".



The etiquette of how to serve this and how to eat that can become quite confusing, especially since the Brits are very particular. The good news is; the Pacific Northwest is a long way from the United Kingdom. Here are some guidelines to afternoon tea – try them out, learn the ‘proper’ way, but most importantly, have fun! 


How to pour your tea:
Teahouses commonly serve loose tealeaves and place them in your teapot prior to presenting it to your table. Depending on the teahouse, each person will get his or her own pot. Place the strainer over your teacup to catch any loose leaves from sneaking into your cup, and pour! If you’d like to add milk or sugar to your tea, wait until after you’ve poured your tea. 

How to eat your scones:
Remember to always use the serving utensil provided on the curate stand to get food from one of the plates. To cut your scone, use your knife to split it in half then use your fingers to eat (it’s finger food, remember?). 

Drinking your tea:
Traditionally, extending the pinky finger is considered improper (But we’re all about having fun, right? Throw up those pinkies if you’d like). Avoid swishing your tea around like you might with a glass of wine. When stirring your tea, be careful not to over swirl that the tea flows out. Once you’re finished stirring, place the spoon on the right-hand side of your saucer.  

Read our Guide to Tea in Seattle and enjoy a nice spot of tea in the city. 

Watch the six-part series of The Queen’s Diamond Decades starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 23

Blog post authored by Nikki Torres Garcia, KCTS 9 Social Media Intern.