Dinner Party Etiquette: When to Serve Coffee and Tea

There are two ways of thinking about the proper time to serve coffee and tea after a meal. The most formal and traditional way is to serve dessert first, followed by coffee once the dessert plates have been cleared. (This also used to be a signal that it was now OK for people to light up their cigarettes. Clearly, times have changed!)

The second, more casual possibility is to serve coffee/tea with the dessert. Many people like it this way because the coffee helps to cut some of the sweetness and richness of dessert. A second cup of coffee or even an after dinner drink can be served once the table is cleared.

I usually offer coffee with dessert since many people I know prefer it that way. And I offer it again after dessert just in case there are some traditionalists in the crowd. So I'm covered either way. One thing I don't do is serve coffee with the main meal, although friends have told me that they grew up with that practice, especially those from more rural areas.

When do you serve coffee and why? And when's the last time someone lit up a cigarette at your dinner table?

Related: Do you Drink with Your Meals?

(Image: Liberty Lady)

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Main, Gatherings, Coffee, Dessert, Dinner, Etiquette, Tea

Dana Velden has just finished writing her first book: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Meditations and Recipes from a Mindful Cook which is based on her Weekend Meditation posts from The Kitchn. (Rodale Press, Fall, 2015) She lives in Oakland, CA.