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How to host the perfect afternoon tea party

Afternoon tea

Enjoying a comforting hot beverage with an indulgent sweet treat is a quintessentially British tradition which guarantees to put a smile on people’s faces.

Afternoon tea is iconic, with its carefully crafted petit fours presented on bone china plates, silver serving platters of finger sandwiches and the finest clotted cream and jam smothered over freshly baked buttery scones.

While it is wonderful to indulge in afternoon tea at local eateries, it can become a pricey past-time which is why we have spoken to bloggers to put together this article to inspire you to create your own get-together at home.

Consider dietary requirements

Allergies and intolerances

An important aspect of hosting any kind of social event is taking your guests’ dietary requirements into account. It is worth double-checking with your guests beforehand regarding allergies and intolerances so you can prepare accordingly.

Sarah Howells from The Gluten Free Blogger explains that taking dietary requirements into account is easier than you may think: “A lot of people nowadays avoid gluten, dairy and so on, so it's important you know this in advance. Many recipes can be adapted to make them gluten or dairy-free and it's best to keep those cakes and treats separate to avoid any cross-contamination too. Blogs and recipe sites, as well as Pinterest, are a great way to find some inspiration for trickier diners.”

Being mindful of cross-contamination is important, for example using the same chopping board to prepare regular bread should not be used for the food you’re preparing for guests with coeliac disease. If any guests have allergies, intolerances, or a coeliac disease diagnosis, you should prepare food on separate boards, plates, and use different utensils.

Presentation is key

Afternoon tea displayed on a cake stand

They say we ‘eat with our eyes’, meaning that how you present your afternoon tea is important. If possible, use a nice tablecloth, pretty plates and teacups to serve your food and drink. Haydy from Squibb Vicious says: “My favourite part of afternoon tea is the presentation, so my top tip would be to invest in some lovely tea stands to give an impressive look. Using your tea stands really does improve any tea party, and I also suggest picking a colour theme, so this runs through the table setting, decor and maybe even into your cakes.”

Gemma from Wheel Escapades also considers presentation an important aspect for hosting the perfect afternoon tea party at home: “For me, the food should be served on a three-tiered stand, it adds a grandness to the event, and loose leaf tea would be my preference, served in pots.”

Neha from Mostly Food and Travel has an alternative suggestion if you want to try to present your food in a different way. She bought an inexpensive shelving unit to give her tea party the ‘wow factor’, and she also suggests using slates or wooden boards for a chic yet rustic look.

Provide a variety of food

The perfect afternoon tea should consist of a mixture of sweet and savoury dishes as Gemma explains: “Food should be dainty and elegant, with subtle flavours such as cream cheese and cucumber. Afternoon tea can be quite deceiving, it looks small and light however, there are many parts so you can soon fill up. I suggest taking your time and having a good chat in between bites, and dare you start the cream or jam first debate for your scones?”

Lu Ann, who blogs at The Cup of Life and author of Tea-Spiration, enjoys seeing crustless sandwiches as well as fresh salads and “of course, you have scones”.

Savoury options to include

  • Crustless sandwiches cut into triangles or fingers (or mini soft-baked rolls) with a plethora of fillings such as egg and cress, smoked salmon, ham and mustard and cream cheese with cucumber.
  • Cheese scones with butter served in a pot.
  • Thick cut crisps in exciting flavours such as crispy bacon and maple syrup or sweet chilli and sour cream from Kettle Chips.
  • Mini Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef and horseradish sauce.
  • Vol-au-vents with a prawn cocktail filling.  

Sweet options to include

  • Individual cheesecakes, mini brownies and Victoria sponge cakes.
  • Shortbread presented in a variety of shapes with pastel-coloured icing.
  • Mini pastries and tarts in different flavours such as cherry Bakewell or lemon curd.
  • Colourful macaroons.
  • Profiteroles with a decadent chocolate drizzle.

The purpose of an afternoon tea is not just to enjoy the food, but also to enjoy the company. Providing a finger-food spread means that guests can help themselves when they want to, and it allows people to mingle and strike up a conversation.

You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing food, for an easy and relaxed lead up to your tea party simply make the sandwich fillings the night before and assemble just before guests arrive to avoid soggy sarnies. Supermarkets are full of delicious delicacies, so don’t feel the need to make everything from scratch; it is more important that you spend quality time with your guests.

Drinks to serve at an afternoon tea party

A cup of tea

An afternoon tea party is the perfect chance to treat your friends to an array of speciality loose leaf teas. Consider getting a mixture of green, black and fruity teas and allow guests to indulge.

Assam is a strong full-bodied Indian tea with a strong malty flavour, while Earl Grey comprises of a blend of black teas flavoured with the oil from the rind of a bergamot orange. Chinese gunpowder green tea boasts a subtle and smoky flavour, while fruity blends such Queen of Tarts by Bird & Blend Tea Co. contains apple pieces, rosehip, hibiscus, toasted rice and a hint of raspberry.

It is worth writing out labels to place next to each ramekin so guests can see at a glance what they are drinking. You will soon be able to see which tea is popular amongst your guests and you can keep refilling the ramekin when supplies dwindle.

It is also worth providing a couple of cold drink options too, water with lots of ice garnished with fresh mint, cucumber and lemon not only looks amazing, but it is easy to put together and a great refreshing alternative. Ice-cold cloudy lemonade is another great choice and its zesty flavour complements many sweet treats you serve.

Afternoon games

To help keep the conversation flowing it is worth encouraging guests to take part in some afternoon games. Sarah says: “Nostalgia games are always fun! You could research childhood party games of the average age range of your guests to give everyone a good dose of nostalgic fun.”

Sarah Cull from Life in Full Flavour suggests a tea-drinking game which is sure to get everyone chatting: “Stick to the theme of tea and arrange an identify-the-tea game. Gather four or five different types of tea bags (such as earl grey, peppermint, chamomile) and see if people can work out what they are just from their look and smell.”

Victoria from Victoria’s Vintage suggests allowing guests to show off their artistic side: “You could finalise your afternoon tea with a small activity such as cake decorating or DIY crafting. Buy some ready-iced cupcakes and a selection of sprinkles and have a fun and easy cake decorating session.”

If guests don’t wish to participate in activities, then don’t worry because: “Nothing goes better with tea than a lovely conversation,” says Lu Ann. “You want to make sure your guests are sipping, chatting and having a great time.”

A tea party is a great social event for those who have mobility issues and rely on the use of equipment, such as a stair lift because you can sit down and still join in the celebrations.

This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.