Contrary to what we expect when we hear “come over for coffee”, afternoon tea is typically more of an elegant affair.
Afternoon tea is considered to be one of the quintessential British traditions and enjoying a traditional afternoon tea if you are visiting London, at one of the fine hotels which offer it, is an experience not to be missed. A chance to indulge in some lovely delicious pastries and sample some specially selected teas too. But while you’re here we’ll share some tips on how you may host a tea party whether you’d like to bring some friends together or celebrate a special event such as a birthday or baby shower. The level of formality is up to you.
Bring out your best china, silverware, crockery and tea sets and let’s start planning with a basic list for your own tea party.
After all, who wouldn’t take up the opportunity to set aside a couple of hours from a hectic life to enjoy a cup of tea with friends?
What you will need:
Tea (loose leaf)
Hot water (for those who like to weaken their tea)
White and brown sugar cubes (although white is preferred with tea)
Clotted cream (Cornish or Devonshire)
Tiered cake stand
Cake server (if you have a cake to cut to celebrate an event)
Lemon – thinly sliced (not wedges)
Setting your theme
Decide on the theme or colour scheme you’d like to create. This depends on the occasion however usually florals, pastel colours and softer themes are widely used. If you are stuck, there is so much inspiration online that you will be spoilt for choice.
Setting the table
Choose your tablecloth to start off with and set the table in a way that makes it easy for your guests to reach for items like sugar bowls, milk jugs and lemon slices. Every person’s place setting should have a teacup, saucer, teaspoon, small plate, napkin and any utensils they would need. Before putting the teapots on the table with tea, pour boiling water in the teapot and empty it as this will prevent the brew from cooling too quickly.
The three distinct courses
If you have a three tiered cake stand, then you would serve the courses as follows:
On the bottom tier: Finger sandwiches
On the middle tier: Scones
On the top tier: Pastries and cakes
They are served in this order because one would typically start with the sandwiches, which are savoury and proceed to eating the scones with clotted cream and jam and finally indulging in the top tier pastries and cake.
And if you hear the phrase ‘Shall I be mother?‘ during the tea party, then know that the person is offering to pour the tea.
Traditionally, a tea party is held between three o’clock and five o’clock. So plan ahead and enjoy hosting your guests to your own afternoon tea.