Afternoon tea can be dated back to the 1840s, where it was originally introduced in England by the Duchess of Bedford, Anna. Dinner meals would typically be eaten late around 8pm and the Duchess would be hungry in the late afternoon as it was a long gap in between lunch and dinner service. To feed her hunger, she would have some tea, bread, and cake served to her as a meal snack. It became an ongoing habit of hers and she would also invite her friends, which included Queen Victoria, for afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea is typically served between 3-5pm, usually at hotels or tearooms, with a wide variety of savory and sweet treats on display. Clotted or Devon cream can be paired along side with fruit preservatives to accompany scones.
An afternoon tea party is such an fun and elegant way to get together with friends and family to celebrate a special occasion, or just an excuse to dress up. Hosting an afternoon tea party may seem daunting at first, but the overall experience is so rewarding! From the planning of the menu to the execution and to finally sit down to enjoy a good cup of tea with cake, it is all worth it.
Planning the menu is the best part of hosting an afternoon tea party! It's all about the small dainty packages presented on the plate! Check for any food allergies that guests may have and that will help narrow down your selection. If you're pressed for time and cannot prepare everything, it doesn't hurt to buy premade items to save on time. When I think of afternoon tea, I think of finger sandwiches, something savory, scones and a few sweet treats! Don't get too over ambitious with the menu though. You can keep it simple.
Manage your time during preparation well. Each recipe may have a different baking time if you're using the oven and that should be accounted for. Some recipes can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator, while others recipes may need to be served warm and may not keep well.
Table Set Up
On the day of the party, ensure that all your food are presented on the tiered serving plates prior to guest arrival, food kept warm in the oven if necessary, and that you have a kettle full of boiling water ready to go. Set the table with small dishes and cutlery. Ensure that you have some tea pots on hand and individual loose-leaf tea steeper in case guests prefer to steep their own tea. You could also have champagne glasses available if it's a special celebration.
This is probably the most nutritious part of the menu and considered to be the most refreshing. I like to keep this part of the menu the healthiest. It makes me feel less guilty afterwards.
I have previously made avocado and egg sandwiches, cucumber and herb cream sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches. The first tea party I hosted, I had sliced the sandwiches in thirds. In the another, I decided to slice them in quarters in triangles for a different presentation style.
When I think of savory, I think of puff pastries served warm. I think my favourite is serving warm quiches first before diving into the rest of the afternoon tea selections. Other variations are spinach puffs or the pulled pork puffs I recently made.
If you're going to serve scones, you need to get your hands on some clotted cream and fruit preserves. My favourite scones are the cranberry scones. Alternatively, you can also try serving savoury scones and serve it with a sour cream dip instead of clotted cream.
The choices to serve are endless! Just be creative! You have your pick of cakes, biscuits, macarons, petit fours, patisseries, etc. Here are a few suggestions: