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A Guide To Hosting an Afternoon Tea Party

There is something wonderfully grounding about hosting an afternoon tea, especially when time seems to spin faster with each day that goes by. Even though it originated in Britain in the early 1900s, it has now become a tradition that is celebrated worldwide. So what exactly is afternoon tea and how can you partake in this experience?

afternoon tea foods displayed on a 3 tiered tray

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon tea isn't just a meal. It is an experience in and of itself that came forth from tradition in elegance and charm. Traditionally, afternoon tea is served between 3 and 5 pm. It is designed to give people a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It's meant to allow you to slow down, indulge in some tasty treats, and enjoy the company of family and friends.

cup of tea

How to Host an Afternoon Tea Party

Hosting afternoon tea is a great way to recreate this tradition from the comfort of your own home. It's gained popularity over the years because it's such a fun way to spend time with friends and family that can be customized to your tastes. Here is how to do it:

  1. Set the Scene: Begin by creating a welcoming atmosphere. Get out your favorite tablecloth, some pretty napkins which can be fabric or paper, mix and match some vintage china pieces, (you can find some great pieces at thrift stores), and some silverware. Add some freshly arranged flowers or candles to finish it off.

  2. Choose Your Tea: Choose a variety of teas to suit your guests. If you want to stay classic choose black teas such as Earl Grey, or Assam, delicate green teas, and herbal teas. Get creative by choosing some fruit blends for aromatic interest. Be sure to have caffeinated and caffeine-free options.

  3. Prepare Your Foods: The main event of afternoon tea is the food. Finger sandwiches with fillings such as cucumber cream cheese, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, or smoked salmon are popular. You will also want to prepare some freshly baked scones and clotted cream. These are served with preserves and curd on the side. The last food item will be sweets. Think small bites for pastries and cakes.

  4. Serve With Style: Traditionally your food should be served on a tiered tray. Your bottom tier will hold the finger sandwiches, the middle tier is for the scones, and the top tier is where your sweets will go. Be sure to encourage your guests to take their time and enjoy each course leisurely while everyone enjoys good conversation.

  5. The Tea: Once your table is set and the food is presented, pour the tea! Be sure to include milk, lemon, sugar, and honey so your guests can customize their tea to their tastes. One of the most important things is to encourage great conversation and laughter as you all enjoy this experience together.

  6. Etiquette: Even though this is a casual gathering, if you want to get into the event's spirit, there are a few tips to keep it authentic. When stirring your tea, don't allow your spoon to clink on the sides of your cup, and place your used tea bags or spoon on the saucer behind the cup when not in use.

  7. Enjoy the Experience: The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience. Don't stress over details. It's about more than just the food and drink. It's about pausing to enjoy the moment, connecting with others, and appreciating the simple joys in life.

scones with clotted cream, preserves, and curd

Although you can certainly host an afternoon tea for yourself, it's so much better to invite people you enjoy spending time with. Think about where you want to host your tea as well. It can be anywhere from your kitchen to the outdoor garden. You can even encourage your guests to wear their favorite sundress and garden hats to make it even more special. Imagine you and your guests all sitting together wearing your sundresses, donning your favorite hats, sipping tea, eating food, and laughing together enjoying this experience that will leave lasting memories in your mind for years to come. I will bet that your guests will really enjoy this experience you had together and who knows maybe it will become a tradition!

afternoon tea in the garden

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afternoon tea with tea cup and tea pot


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