LOS ANGELES: Months before meeting the Queen for the first time and having a "cuppa" with her Majesty, Meghan Markle brushed up on tea drinking etiquette at a cottage near Los Angeles -- where she was apparently a natural.
"Well, she learned it all here," Edmund Fry, the British-born owner of Rose Tree Cottage in Pasadena, told AFP in an interview this week. "On a scale of one to 10, by the time she finished coming to us, I would say she would probably be a 9.5.
"But I have to say that because I want her to come back for the other half point."
Fry said the California-born actress, who will marry Prince Harry this weekend, on several occasions visited the picturesque tea room -- decked out with all things British -- where she was given the inside track on tea drinking.
"She came with friends and was very relaxed and very much in control," he recalled.
He said he shared some tips on the quintessential tea experience with the soon-to-be new member of the royal family, as she munched on traditional finger sandwiches and scones.
No slurping or dribbling -
"I do believe that I mentioned, as I always do, that the handle of the cup is always left at three o'clock of course ... and the spoon always needs to be left at six o'clock and 12 o'clock," said the 77-year-old, who dresses in tails and white gloves while serving and educating his customers.
He added that Markle seemed like a natural on her repeated visits and was unlikely to make any faux pas -- like slurping or using her napkin to blow her nose or wipe her glasses -- while sipping tea with the Queen.
"I remember telling her one of the habits in this country is people tend to get much more palsy walsy with their cup ... and they move it in front of them," Fry said, raising his eyebrows in despair.
"Maybe it's because they have a tendency to dribble, I'm not sure," he added.
"But this is not a good thing to do."
Another no-no he shared with Markle, he said, was changing the table setting.
"If you were at the palace, you wouldn't dream of moving the cutlery and the silver or the china away from the place where it should be," he said.
Traditional English scones served with tea should also be sliced sideways and topped with jam and clotted cream before each half is eaten separately, pleaded Fry, who looks like a character straight out of "Downton Abbey."
"You don't want to put the two halves together because it ends up looking like a quarter pound hamburger, and the last thing you want is people having cream come down their jowls," he said in his cut-glass British accent.
And please, when drinking tea, refrain from slurping or clinking the cup with the spoon when stirring, he added.
As for crooking the little finger while holding the cup and saucer, Fry said that was optional.
"It's not wrong to have your finger in, but ladies tend to leave the pinky slightly crooked," he said.
Fry said he will be celebrating Harry and Meghan's nuptials on Saturday with a wedding party, and will always keep a table open for the newlyweds.
"She will always have a table here, and Harry of course," he said. "There will be the time when he wants real bacon and he'll come here for it."