Etiquette expert shares how to be a high tea connoisseur ahead of Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea

Is there a proper way to eat a scone? Why yes, there is!

Cancer Council Queensland has teamed up with one of the state’s top experts in tea etiquette, Jo Hayes, to help Queenslanders fine-tune their etiquette skills, including step-by-step instructions on how to eat a scone, ahead of Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea on Thursday, May 23.

Ms Hayes, founder of Etiquette Expert, has completed a Master’s research thesis on afternoon tea etiquette and delights in sharing her love for modern tea etiquette, so it’s no surprise her teacup collection is impressive.

She suggested Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea hosts take her lead and use fine bone china teacups at their event to add a touch of elegance.

“If you don’t have any, borrow some off a friend or a relative – or drop by your local op shop to pick up a pre-loved set,” Ms Hayes said.

And to pinkie or not to pinkie? Absolutely no pinkies up, said Hayes.

“Raising your little finger while drinking tea is a very common myth – but it’s actually considered rude and should be avoided,” she explained.

And is it milk or tea first? Tea is the correct way.

“Once the tea has been poured, pour in the milk gently and noiselessly, moving the teaspoon in a small arch back and forth in the centre of the cup to blend it in,” Ms Hayes said.

“Avoid clinking the sides of the teacup and remember to sip, not slurp.”

Now onto the food! Ms Hayes said it’s important to remember that particular foods are best complemented by certain teas.

She suggested pairing green tea with spicy foods, sweet desserts like cheesecake with a fruity tea, and scones, jam and cream with a bold black tea, like English Breakfast or Earl Grey.

If scones are the main event, Ms Hayes said on the table should be little serving containers filled with clotted cream and preserves.

“Jam and cream should be spooned onto the side of the plate, with enough for one scone, and spread on with a knife,” she said.

Ms Hayes prefers the traditional Cornish method for serving scones – spread the jam on first, followed by cream.

Pronounced “sconn” and never “scoan”, a huge no-no is making a scone sandwich by putting the two halves together with the cream and jam in the middle.

Food is also about conversation and Ms Hayes suggested enjoying your tea with no distractions.

Pictured is Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea ambassador Jo Hayes. Tea in a fine bone china teacup adds a touch of calm and civility to what can often be a hectic day in the newsroom.

“The tradition of an afternoon or morning tea goes much deeper than simply drinking tea – it promotes civility, relationships, slowing down and taking time out to relax, and enjoying the simple things in life,” she said.

That brings us to a modern-day malady: the mobile phone.

“Whether you enjoy this tradition with a few close friends, or your wider community, turn off your phone and simply connect and refresh over tea,” Ms Hayes said.

Since Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea began in 1994, millions of Australians have come together over a cuppa and a bite to eat in support of those affected by cancer.

In 2019, the official day to host a morning tea is Thursday, May 23, however participants can register to host at any time throughout May or June.

By hosting or attending a morning tea, you will help Cancer Council continue their lifesaving cancer research, prevention, advocacy and support programs for people affected by cancer.

To host an event, or donate, visit or call 1300 65 65 85.

For more tea etiquette tips, follow Jo Hayes on Instagram at or via Twitter at @johayesjourno.


Eating a scone properly

Scoop out clotted cream and jams onto your plate, enough for one scone.

Use a knife to break apart the scone in half horizontally.

Use a knife to slather on jam, first, and then cream.

Never ‘sandwich’ the scone halves back together.

Next, enjoy. When cutting your scone further, remember each piece should be eaten in 1-2 bites.

About Jo Hayes: 

Jo Hayes is a Brisbane-based 4KQ newsreader and a reporter at 7 News Brisbane. She has completed a Master’s research thesis on ‘afternoon tea etiquette’ at Queensland University of Technology, and delights in sharing her love for modern tea etiquette with others. Jo is also a long-standing Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea ambassador for Cancer Council Queensland.

For more information, or interviews, media can contact:

Lisa Maynard, Public Relations and Social Media Manager, Cancer Council Queensland
Ph: (07) 3634 5171 or 0488 015 702

For more information on Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea or to register to host an event, members of the general public should call 1300 65 65 85.