Articles and News of Etiquette 

How to make a good cup of tea


The first important thing is the water. Avoid using tap water, instead, use fresh water. Bottled spring or mineral water is a good choice. Because fresh water contains more oxygen which is vital in bringing out the best flavour of the tea. Idealy wait untill the boiled water cools down a bit to the temperature of 80°C,  or you can boil the mineral water until it is about to boil(when you see bubbles starting to rise). Pour in some hot water into the tea pot and toss around to warm it up, then empty the pot, so as to sustain the temperature of the tea later. Allow the tea to brew for at least 3 minutes, the leaves will rise and open up to release the uptimum flavour and aroma.


Some might think that it is a good idea to boil water and tea leaves together to bring out the full flavour. In fact this will just make the brew taste bitter. Because tannin is insoluble in water and when tea leaves are boiled with water, the tannic acid simply increases.  In Hong Kong tea cafes, people would boil tea leaves with water for strong and bitter flavour.

Sweet: Dessert or Pudding?

Does using the term pudding or dessert have connotations of class?

It is confusing for some tourists when they visit the UK. The term pudding is  typically a British term when used to reference the sweet course following a main, while In the US and many other countries it is a dessert. Nowadays many British refer sweet to dessert only, because time has changed and people are more casual with terms.


To make it simple, the clearest difference between a pudding and a dessert is that, a dessert is sweet, but a pudding can be both sweet and savoury, it is usually used to describe a particular type of food or sweet. Dessert could be fruits, that you use fork and knife to cut.  You only use spoon for pudding.


Yorkshire pudding served with roast beef in traditional Sunday lunch is savoury. Black pudding, Steak and Kidney Pudding are definitely not sweet.  A pudding usually is a dish of more homely or rustic. A dessert is lighter and more sophisticated, such as chocolate mousse.  However, the word Dessert is rarely used by the British upper class. Some fine restaurants and private clubs would use Pudding to refer to the sweet course.

   U and Non-U

Classic film My Fair Lady was made from a play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. In 1912 he wrote this in preface:

It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.


Later Professor Alan S.C. Ross published his famous U and non-U: an essay on sociological linguistics. This was a 40-year gap but it seemed not much had changed. He said: It is solely by its language that the English upper class is clearly marked off from the others.


However, language and class distinctions have evolved and changed over the last 50 years. Below are some interesting examples of use of words.

The U and Non-U Words

U - Stands for Upper Class ( by the British linguist Alan S. C. Ross)

      U Words 

Bike or bicycle

Dinner jacket    




Ill (in bed)    



False teeth    





Lavatory or loo    

Good health    





How d'you do?    



Dress suit
Ice cream
Sick (in bed)
Settee or couch


Pleased to meet you


The Queen's English

The Queen's English is elegant English. It is whether people use speaking and writing language correctly and elegantly. Some might say that Her Majesty is a person of certain age and certain level of class, but in fact nowadays this is less important than it used to be. She is more a linguistic snob. For example, she does not say Posh since this is not an elegant word. 

The Art of Correspondence  


Certain rules still apply today either in formal writing or in electronic communications. 


Letters and emails should begin with a greeting: 


Dear Sir or Madam, this is appropriate in business when you don't know the name of the recipient. It is often used in marketing letters to potential customers, or to a new corperate account. 


Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/ Miss Smith, is the formal way of addressing someone whom is not acquainted, in social and business. If you do not know the woman's preference, just use Ms. This is also courteous to address an older person or someone of senior position. 


Dear John Smith is less formal than the previous two forms and is used in business correspondence, when you don't know the person you are writing to. 


Dear John is for friends, or someone you know well. 


Hi John and Hello John, are used for friends who have been corresponding via emails. You do not use this form when you write your first letter or emails. 


At the end, both letters and emails are to be signed as: 


Yours faithfully - for letter begin with Dear Sir / Madam


Yours sincerely - for Dear Mr Smith or Dear John Smith


Yours and With best wishes - for less formal correspondence. 

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