Afternoon tea is a tasty tradition that’s been famous since the Victorian era and Afternoon Tea Week (10 – 16 August) celebrates the British custom of high tea. Perhaps more importantly it is the perfect excuse to catch up with loved ones over a cup of tea, some sandwiches and buttery scones.
To mark this fabulous tradition, we’ve put together a handy guide to hosting the perfect afternoon tea party. From decoration to food to afternoon tea etiquette, we’ve got you covered. Although whether you put clotted cream or jam first on your scone is up to you to debate. Get those cucumber sandwiches ready!
Setting the scene for your afternoon tea party
First things first is prepping the table. Whether you’re using your dining room or your garden table and chairs, it’s best to use a table cover or cloth as all those cakes can get very messy. You could use something that you already have and jazz it up with a few accessories. We love this heart confetti from Paperchase for adding some sparkle and making it feel more like an occasion. Although don’t worry if you don’t have any suitable material at home, you could treat yourself to a table cover for the occasion. This fun, pink ombre paper table cover from John Lewis & Partners is bound to impress your guests!
Next up, its time to set out the table plan and get your place cards ready to add that extra sense of Victorian grandeur. Simply cut up some card or paper into small squares and fold down the middle. You could even get the kids involved over the summer holidays and let them get crafty with glitter accessories and different colours. Alternatively, impress your guests with these beautifully (and already made) decorated place cards from Paperchase if you’re short on time.
Once the table is set out, it’s time to lay out your teacups so that you’re ready to serve a welcome brew to your guests when they arrive. We love this unique China tea set from Oliver Bonas. You have to drink your tea from a China teacup after all! Feeling extra fancy? Why not serve your guests a refreshing glass of Prosecco from these handy M&S Prosecco glasses.
Afternoon tea food ideas
Delicious finger sandwiches are the basis of any great afternoon tea. Although there are hundreds of options to choose from, we recommend sticking to traditional flavours that you know everyone will love. Classics such as egg and cress, smoked salmon and cream cheese and cucumber and chicken salad are certain to go down well with guests. These are all easy to make at home ahead of your guests’ arrival. Fear not if you’re short of time, just head to your local supermarket and stock up on some ready-made sandwiches. To give off the homemade vibe simply cut off the crusts and cut the sandwiches in half lengthways (we promise we won’t tell). You can even save the hassle and pre-order impressive sandwich platters from M&S or Pret.
Scones, clotted cream and jam
Who doesn’t love the taste of a buttery scone as a part of any afternoon tea meal. These all-butter scones from Waitrose will go down a treat with guests and taste delicious paired with Tesco’s Finest Strawberry Conserve and extra special clotted cream from Asda.
Whether you put the jam or clotted cream on first is up to you and your guests for debate…
Fancy showing off to your guests and have a go at making your own jam? Check out this jam making and preserves recipe book from Lakeland that is full of over 50 recipes, expert hints and tips
Afternoon tea cakes
Now here is where you can really get creative in the kitchen. From fairy cakes to eclairs, there’s hundreds of recipes online to choose from, so its up to you which cake or cakes you want to go for.
If you’re not a confident amateur baker, then why not pick up this selection of tasty mini afternoon tea cupcakes for just £2 at Sainsbury’s and your guests will be none the wiser. Alternatively, if one of your guests attending is a master baker, then why not task them with bringing the cakes and take one less thing off your to-do list! That’s a sure-fire way you can guarantee the cakes you serve up are delicious.
If you’re really looking to impress, then check out the M&S Food to Order range. Here you can pre-order a range of bite sized sweet treats, like their classic macaroons, fresh fruit tartlets and salted caramel profiterole stack (drool!).
When it comes to tea, everyone has their own preferred flavour and their own way of enjoying it. Whether it’s a herbal tea or a classic builders tea each of your guests is bound to want something different. If you want to look like the perfect host, then it’s best to have a selection of different flavoured teas ready for your guests to choose from. Try the V&A tea selection from John Lewis & Partners or the afternoon tea collection from Whittard. These selections include unique flavours like English Rose and Superfruit Infusion, as well as popular afternoon tea classics like Earl Grey.
If you do fancy adding a bit of fizz, try the M&S Conte Priuli ORO Prosecco. The beautifully designed bottle will look great on any table, and it’s delicious too! Looking for a slightly more budget alternative? Try the Prosecco Superiore DOCG, just £7.49 at Aldi.
If you’re not a fan of Prosecco, then try the impressive range of cocktails in a can available at M&S for something a little different. With flavours including pink passion star martini, blackberry Gin bramble, and the brand-new Aperitivo Spritz, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit all tastes. Or you could even try making your own classic cocktails.
Now that all the food and drinks are sorted it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a well-deserved afternoon tea party with friends.
Now the summer holidays are here you are probably looking for ways to keep the kids entertained. Fancy hosting a BBQ this summer, check out these top tips for hosting the perfect day.