Fold your pinky in!” I’m holding a porcelain teacup in my hand, pinky jutting outward, about to tilt the china to my lips and savor a first sip of smoky Lapsang Souchong tea, when I’m startled by this chide. I’ve just settled in for an afternoon tea service at London’s ultra-fashionable ME London (336-337 The Strand, London. Tel: +44-808-234-1953.www.melia.com) when a staff member, a copy of Joan Cazal’s hefty Tea Time: London’s Best Afternoon Teas tucked under her arm, interjects a bit of etiquette that many of us have gotten and continue to get wrong.
“The pinky should not be out,” she explains, smiling yet firm. “That’s a misconception. It’s silly looking and even a bit rude.”
“Really?” I ask, nervously trying to prevent my pinky from springing outward, as nature and instinct seem to want it to do. It was a struggle, believe me. Across the room, I see a trio of sassy queens, one with pinky out, and I’m jealous.
She’s right, though, as much as my heart and mind wanted to deny it. Further research netted even more firmly worded statements on this matter. Website AfternoonTea.co.uk, for example, in its etiquette dos and don’ts directs: “Pinkies Out? Absolutely not. The common misconception is that outstretching one’s little finger aids the balance of the cup when taking a sip of tea; this is almost certainly not the case and is not only pointless but slightly silly. We wouldn’t recommend grasping the cup in the palm of your hand, but there is no need to stick a pinkie out. It has rapidly become one of Afternoon Teas’ most common faux pas.”