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Meeting trends: the business of


By Aleigh Acerni, Editorial Assistant


Caption: Teatime setup at the Baker’s Café.

A new business trend has people in Charleston saying, “let’s have tea.” Beginning in ancient China and popularized by the British, tea has been around for centuries. Now, Americans are capitalizing on a resurging popularity by hosting afternoon power teas for business purposes. An invitation to tea can pique interest and give a sense of unconventionality and cutting-edge versatility to an otherwise ordinary lunch or dinner invitation.

Cindy Grosso of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette touts power teas because of their lower cost and short duration of 30 minutes to one hour. Typically, she says, “low tea,” so-called because it is taken from low tables, is served at 4 p.m., but can range from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. And, with less food to munch on, business matters are more easily discussed.  “Tea can be more business, less social,” Grosso says.

Suggested foods to be served at tea are finger sandwiches, scones and sweets such as cookies or brownies. They should be eaten in courses with the least sweet foods first. There is no alcohol involved in a power tea, leading to a more productive meeting.

Grosso calls afternoon tea “a relaxed but refined way to entertain,” and it’s on the rise in Charleston. “It’s definitely growing. Some establishments serve afternoon tea on a regular basis, but you can order it almost anywhere,” she says, “Charleston is a great place for it, being the epicenter of hospitality.”

Another advantage of a business power tea is executives can be home for dinner. “Around 4 o’clock you’re getting ready to go anyway. Meeting for tea is a nice way to end the day. It speaks well of you and is a civilized way to take business out of the office,” Grosso says.

Tea is appropriate for every season according to Grosso. “It doesn’t matter what temperature it is outside. Business tea is usually not taken outdoors, although it can be,” she says. Though iced tea can be served, hot tea is preferred and more elegant.

Savvy tips for tea-takers:

  • Put the tea in first. If using tea bags, no bobbing is allowed. Let tea steep for up to five minutes and then remove the tea bag.
  • Next comes sugar, if desired.
  • Lemon should be added after the sugar. The acidity of the lemon juice can sometimes keep the sugar from dissolving completely. Lemon for tea is served in very thin slices, not wedges. It should remain in the teacup.
  • If no lemon, cream may be added and stirred without making noise—no clanking the sides of the cup with the spoon.
  • After stirring, the spoon should be removed from the cup and placed behind the cup on the saucer. Both the handle of the spoon and the teacup should be facing 4 o’clock as on a watch face.
  • If the distance from the table to your mouth is greater than 12 inches, when you pick up your teacup you must also pick up the saucer.
  • The pinky-out notion is not proper etiquette. Pinkies should remain tucked under the ring finger. The teacup should be held with the index finger through the handle and the thumb above to support.


Source: Article published in the Charleston Regional Business Journal

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