DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve gotten some unsolicited advice on how one drinks tea, and now I’m worried that it will be cold before I figure out how to drink it. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
A distant acquaintance told me that when you stir sugar into your tea, you’re not supposed to let the spoon hit the side of the cup and make a noise. Is that true? How on earth is it accomplished?
This same acquaintance has also told me that the milk and sugar have to go into the cup first, or I’m doing it wrong. But is there really a protocol for that sort of thing? How does one do it right?
When I’m drinking tea and eating a cookie at the same time, may I put the cookie on the saucer next to the cup, or does it deserve its own separate plate?
Last of all, may I dunk the cookie in the tea, or is that sort of thing not allowed? I suppose this question’s a long shot, in light of the three before it.
GENTLE READER: Before you blithely break cookies with these people, you should realize that you have entered a controversy so heated as to make American politics look bland in comparison.
This matter of the MIFs (Milk In Firsts) vs. the TIFs (Tea In Firsts) is of great emotional concern to people who have nothing better to do. Scientific arguments about beverage temperature are cited. Class distinctions, about whether the tea is served in fine china or an earthenware mug, are made.
Miss Manners sides with the TIFs, if only because they are able to make the more devastating characterizations of their opponents.
But surely she can trust you to stir in the middle of your cup without clanking, and to dip your cookie while no one is looking.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)