How to serve Afternoon Tea at Home (Step by Step)

How to Serve Afternoon Tea at Home

What is afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea is a British tradition, dating back to 1840, of drinking tea alongside a meal of finger sandwiches, sweet pastries, scones, and cakes. Originally introduced to keep hunger at bay between meals, it has become a much-loved occasion to enjoy with friends and family.

How to set the table for afternoon tea

Afternoon tea should always feel like a special event, even when you’re hosting at home. Therefore, you need to ensure you have all the necessary crockery and tabletop accessories to make it a fancy affair

A traditional afternoon tea setting requires a Cake plate or tea plate at each place setting, with a teacup and saucer placed to the top right of the plate. Depending on how much room you have on your table, the cake forks and cake spoons can be placed on the opposite side of the folded napkin or arranged directly on top.

Don’t forget to leave space for the serveware. Once your guests have seated, you can serve out the essentials - teapot, cream jug, sugar pot, and the all-important cake stand piled high with delicious food. These can be placed in the centre of your table where your guests can help themselves. If you’re hosting a large party, having multiple teapots and cake stands available will ensure there’s enough for everyone.

Should afternoon tea be served indoors or outdoors?

One reason we love afternoon tea so much is that it can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere. It doesn’t always have to be indoors; a warm summer’s day is the perfect opportunity to take your afternoon tea set outside and celebrate in the sunshine.

If you do choose to enjoy tea and cake al fresco, you can stay traditional and set it up on your garden table, or if you’re feeling bold, why not make it a more casual affair and enjoy it as a picnic instead? If you’re worried about bringing your fine china outside, you can always switch it up for your favourite melamine set. The perfect excuse for having a set of crockery just for outdoor dining.

What is the best time for afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea is typically served between 3 PM and 5 PM, with 4 PM being the most popular time to enjoy a meal of tea and sweet treats. Rather than replacing a meal, the ritual of afternoon tea was originally intended to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner at a time when dinner was served as late as 8 PM. However, serving afternoon tea at home means you don’t have to stick to these rules, and you can enjoy it at a time that suits you and your guests.

What do you serve at afternoon tea?

Traditionally, afternoon tea consists of a selection of sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a variety of sweet treats in the form of pastries and cake. These are arranged on a tiered cake stand and served alongside a pot, or two, of tea. We asked our followers on Instagram whether they prefer cake or biscuits with their tea, and a huge 70% voted for cake – a must-have for your afternoon tea setting.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to tradition - you can put a twist on your afternoon tea at home. Maybe you have a theme to your celebration, which you can cleverly weave in with the treats you serve. Or if your guests prefer savoury over sweet, add in some savoury pastries too, such as sausage rolls and pork pies.

Traditional afternoon tea sandwiches

Traditional afternoon tea includes finger sandwiches filled with an array of fillings and with the crusts neatly trimmed off. The cucumber sandwich is synonymous with afternoon tea. It’s light and not very filling, meaning there is more room for cake! But if you’d like more choice, or cucumber isn’t for you, why not try a few from this list of traditional sandwich fillings:

·       Smoke salmon and cream cheese

·       Chicken and mayonnaise

·       Ham and mustard

·       Beef and horseradish

·       Cheese and chutney

·       Prawn and mayonnaise

·       Egg mayonnaise and cress

You can choose a whole host of different fillings when hosting afternoon tea at home, but if you’re struggling to decide what your guests will enjoy, we don’t think you can go wrong with the traditional fillings.

How many sandwiches per person at afternoon tea?

Prepare 3-4 sandwiches per person for your afternoon tea at home. The cake stand will be stacked from top to bottom with delicious food, so there will be lots for your guests to choose from, and you can be sure nobody will go hungry.

The best tea to choose for afternoon tea

There are over 20,000 teas in the world to enjoy and so finding the right one to serve with your afternoon tea can be a difficult choice. Floral teas, such as chamomile and mint, help to cleanse the palette, so are a great choice for afternoon tea when there’s lots of sweet flavours to enjoy.

However, black tea, such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast, is one of the most popular teas in the world and is the perfect choice to enjoy alongside afternoon tea and an option most of your guests will like. We also asked our Instagram followers whether they put the tea or the milk in first when pouring a cup of tea, and 81% said tea first. Do you agree?

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our top tips on hosting an afternoon tea at home and hope we have inspired you for your next get together with friends. We’d love to see your afternoon tea set-ups, tag us in your posts on Instagram.