Afternoon tea is a tradition and a special occasion in many countries. Its origins date back to 19th Century Britain when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, sought to fill her hunger pangs between breakfast and dinner time with a pot of tea and some light snacks in her boudoir. Overtime, socialites and other high society members adopted the practice and afternoon tea ended up as a respectable and fashionable affair.
So if the thought of afternoon tea reminds you of royal spreads with Victorian-era decor and a posh atmosphere, you are absolutely right!
Afternoon tea is commonly scheduled mid to late afternoon between 4 and 5 pm. It is usually considered an elegant affair with the utmost civility, propriety, and strict table manners. But it doesn’t necessarily have to conform to such a rigid formula. In fact, many people host afternoon tea to catch up with friends and family and even host special occasions such as birthday celebrations or bridal showers.
So if you want to have a comprehensive understanding of how to host a fabulous afternoon tea party, you are in the right place.
Fancy a Cuppa?
First things first, you need to have a selection of teas to cater to the varying tastes and preferences of your guests. From the best English breakfast tea to herbal green tea, it is ideal to have at least 3 different options for your guests to choose from.
If you are using a tea bag, follow the instructions on the box and steep according to the given directions. However, if you prefer loose tea, invest in a tea infuser to bring out the different notes of flavors in your tea.
Generally, there are six basic types of teas, mainly black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, rooibos tea, and herbal tea. You can also find exciting varieties that include spices, flowers, berries, and other flavors in the blend. These look aesthetically pleasing when serving guests and make a classy statement when laid out on your table.
Some of the most popular varieties of the six main types of tea include Earl Grey, matcha, silver needle, Iron Goddess of Mercy, red bush rooibos and yerba mate tea.
Sweets and Savouries
Once you have meticulously planned and chosen the right blend of tea for your esteemed guests, the next step is to decide on the spread.
Afternoon teas commonly have a mix of both sweet and savories. They are usually made bite-sized so that it is easier to nibble on them while enjoying your tea and conversations.
Some quintessential options for afternoon savories include teatime sandwiches . Make sure to buy fresh bakery sourdough bread and trim the crusts. You can also make tiny bagels and serve them with vegan cream cheese for a contemporary twist.
Other options include artisan breads such as olive breads or focaccia served with olive oil or non-dairy butter. If you have to cater to specific dietary requirements, consider making a mini version of the classic avocado toast, flatbread with hummus, or a beetroot and shallot tarte Tatin.
For the sweets, start by choosing a showstopper three-tiered cake such as a Victorian sponge cake with jam and strawberries or a classic chocolate malt cake. Include mini cupcakes in flavors such as red velvet, banana, or apple pie. Next up are the scones which are a must-have for any traditional afternoon tea party. Examples include the classic scone with your favorite jam or fruit scones with raspberries, blueberries, or peach pie flavors.
Ideally, it is best to add biscuits, madeleines, eclairs, shortcakes, mille-feuille, choux buns, or macarons to the spread. You can balance out the different flavors depending on your preferences and the availability of ingredients.
Having a delicious menu is not enough to host the perfect afternoon tea. Proper afternoon tea setting with the right cutlery and crockery is the secret ingredient for a decadent and luxurious spread.
Start with a beautiful location, either in your favorite room in the house or a beautiful garden. Set the main table using a crisply ironed tablecloth with a fine china tea set and other crockery and tableware such as the appropriate stainless steel or silver flatware and quarter plates. Pay attention to your table setting and consider including a bouquet of fresh flowers.
When arranging your food, try getting your hands on a tiered platter and proceed by placing your savories at the bottom and then the sweets on the top. Include butter, jams, sugar, or any other essentials in separate pots. To add a little more panache to your table setting, include custom tags for the different food items and indicate the main ingredients. This is an excellent way to tell your guests that you took the time and effort to cater to their different needs and requirements.
Last but not least, send out custom invites and ask your guests to RSVP so you know how much food and tea to prepare. Place some luxuriously scented candles to set the mood and create a calm and relaxing environment. And always remember that as the host, you must serve the tea to all your guests.