When Did Pinky Raising Become Tea Etiquette (& Should You Do It)

For some, tea drinking is a solitary event. In the morning you'll shuffle over to the counter, pour some loose-leaf tea into a strainer and boil a pot of water. You may drink it out of your favorite mug, some delicate china, or a to-go cup so you won't spill on the way to work. But in many other parts of the world, tea is a more social event. In China, tea is consumed at both formal and informal meetings whenever guests are greeted at the home, and serving the beverage comes with a slew of unspoken etiquette rules (via Teavivre).

Tea is also widely consumed in the United Kingdom. According to the UK Tea & Infusions Association, the British alone consume 100 million cups a day; averaging out to 36 billion cups per year! The English also have quite a few tea traditions and rules of etiquette when it comes to taking tea with friends and associates. The Tea Cup of Life tells us that Afternoon Tea in particular was introduced as a way to enjoy the company of others while enjoying some steeped drinks during the 1840s. 

Because the practice was developed by the upper echelons of society, some rules of conduct were introduced like dressing smartly and finger-kowtowing as a sign of respect. However, one practice that seems to have enveloped modern ideas and media representations of tea etiquette is the raised pinky finger — which really shouldn't be lifted at all!

Tuck it in!

You've definitely seen it, read about it, or done it yourself. A cup of delicious tea has been poured, and you take it up to hold it in your hands as you wait for it to cool. Just as you go to take your first sip, you make a purposeful effort to stick the smallest finger as far out from the cup as you can while you drink. Unfortunately, it is a malpractice that has been all too eagerly spread around the world. One that tea etiquette experts have been trying with all their might to dissolve.

Southern Living claims that pinky raising began as early as the 17th century when handle-less mugs of hot tea were handed out. To keep from burning all their fingers, people would lift a few from the cup, and the action, especially among the less affluent communities in Britain, stuck around. 

Today, the act of lifting a pinky finger (or the middle finger for that matter) is considered rude and considered elitist. According to Vahdam India, the only proper way to hold a teacup is by threading a finger or two through the handle. Then, using your other fingers to steady the vessel, curl your other fingers under the base of the handle.