Everyone loves afternoon tea. There is something truly special about the civilised and delicate nature of having afternoon tea. But did you know that the concept of afternoon tea has been ingrained in English culture for around 200 years? The idea of enjoying afternoon tea was started by Queen Victoria’s close friend, Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. She found that she experienced a ‘sinking feeling in the afternoon’ and wanted something small to eat that would tide her over until dinner time.
While the idea of eating afternoon tea started as just something small to eat, it soon caught on and evolved into a far grander affair. In the 1880s, members of England’s high society would get dressed up into their best clothes and head to the drawing room each afternoon to partake in their afternoon tea. These afternoon teas were more lavish than before and featured indulgent quantities of food.
Nowadays, afternoon teas remain an indulgent affair featuring scones with jam and cream, small cakes and pastries, and delicate finger sandwiches, all washed down with a cup of tea or two.
Sitting down in a fancy tearoom to enjoy delicate sandwiches and an array of tasty treats is always a special experience. While going out to enjoy afternoon tea is lovely, sometimes it is nice to recreate the experience for your family, friends or even your customers to enjoy. Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or simply want to get everyone together for a catch-up, hosting afternoon tea is a great way to do it.
If you are hoping to host the perfect afternoon tea, you may be wondering how to begin your preparations to ensure that your guests have a fantastic time and that the food is loved by everyone. Take a look at our top tips to help you recreate a deliciously indulgent afternoon tea.
Creating the perfect setting for your afternoon tea is an ideal way to make the occasion extra special. Here are the things you will need to consider when creating the ideal setting for your afternoon tea:
While you may not be able to achieve your very own traditional tearoom in your home or cafe, there are plenty of ways you can create the ideal setting for your afternoon tea. If you are hosting your afternoon tea on a sunny day, setting up outside in the garden is a great idea. But, you will need to ensure that you have covers to place over the food to keep bugs away, as all those sweet treats will be especially attractive to wasps.
If you prefer the idea of staying inside, simply clearing your dinner table in preparation and ensuring that you have enough chairs to accommodate all your guests is all you need to do.
Creating a vintage tea room look for your afternoon tea is a great way to add some wow factor to your setup. Hanging some bunting, using a tablecloth, and adding cake stands will instantly impress your guests. If you are able to source them, vintage plates and tea cups are also an excellent addition to your table. Plates and tea cups can usually be picked up second-hand. Don’t worry if your tea cups and plates are not all the same pattern, as mismatched crockery will create a vintage bohemian look and add extra interest to your table setup.
If you want to go a little further in your efforts to impress your guests, you could introduce some extra touches. Items such as cake forks, cloth napkins, and place cards are all extra additions that will help elevate the look of your afternoon tea. Adding fresh flowers to the table is another finishing touch that will make your table look even more impressive.
Planning your menu in advance is essential and will enable you to avoid any last-minute issues from ruining your afternoon tea and causing you stress. Here are some pointers to help you prepare your menu:
Scones are an essential part of afternoon tea, so making these the focus of your menu planning is a good idea as they are arguably the most important element. There is surprisingly quite a lot to think about when it comes to scones.
Shop-bought or homemade? – If you are someone that loves baking, then making your own scones for the afternoon tea is a great idea. If you have never made scones before, having a couple of trial runs ahead of your afternoon tea is a good idea, as perfecting the consistency of scones can be a little tricky. If all else fails, there is no shame in using shop-bought scones.
Plain or fruit? – Everyone has their own preference when choosing scones. Some people cannot resist biting into a scone and getting the taste of plump, juicy fruit, whereas other people prefer the simple but delicious taste of plain scones. It is a good idea to bake or buy a combination of both scone varieties so that you can cater to everyone’s tastes.
Jam and Cream – Jam then cream or cream then jam? Whether you prefer your scones served the Devon way or the Cornish, the most crucial thing is that you have plenty of jam and clotted cream ready for your guests; you can then leave it up to them to decide which goes on first! Strawberry jam is the traditional choice for a cream tea, but there is no reason why you cannot add an alternative option such as raspberry or even add some fresh strawberries to make the tea even more indulgent.
Delicate sandwiches are an essential accompaniment to every afternoon tea and bring a savoury flavour to an occasion otherwise full of sweet treats. Creating dainty finger sandwiches is a must to stick with the refined theme of afternoon tea. Carefully cutting the crusts off the bread and ensuring that the sandwiches are all even in size will ensure that they look great on display on your cake stand.
Deciding which sandwich fillings you will use can be a bit tricky, as you want to ensure every guest has something to eat that they will enjoy. Cucumber sandwiches are the best-known choice for afternoon teas, but egg and cress and smoked salmon are all great choices too. To make life easier for yourself, it is advisable to stick with just a few different fillings. The most important thing is that you use high-quality bread to ensure that it is light, fresh, and fluffy, and the best-tasting butter, as this will make a big difference to the taste of your sandwiches.
Tiny, delicate cakes are another treat that will make your cakestand look gorgeous while providing another tasty sweet for your guests to enjoy. Creating these miniature delicacies can be a painstaking process and can be really time-consuming to perfect. But, if you have the time and patience to perfect these teeny treats, they can look amazing.
Do not worry too much if you do not fancy making intricate delicacies for your guests, as there are ways to work around this. Instead, it is easier to bake larger cakes and then carefully cut them into small squares or use a circular cutter to create a perfectly round treat without the hassle of trying to bake portions individually.
With the food taken care of, it is time to turn your attention to the drinks you will serve your guests. Choosing the right tea to complement your afternoon tea is vital. Popular choices include Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Assam. These delicate teas are ideally suited to being served in china cups and will not overwhelm the flavours of the food you are serving.
Understandably, you can expect to get through a lot of tea, so you will need plenty of milk and milk jugs to serve it in. As well as picking up plenty of milk, you will also need to ensure that you have some sugar for your guests. Sugar lumps are an excellent choice for afternoon tea as they look cute and are less messy for your guests than spoonfuls of sugar.
Don’t forget that if you choose to serve more than one variety of tea, you will need additional teapots to ensure that the flavours do not get mixed up.
As not everyone has a sweet tooth, you may want to consider an alternative afternoon tea which features some savoury options for your guests. Serving savoury scones such as cheddar cheese scones, cheese and chive, or even herb and onion scones are all great options to consider. These can be accompanied with cheese and chutney or topped with soft cheese and smoked salmon for a more luxurious option.
Are you looking for the perfect ingredients for a cream tea? If so, contact Freshways to find out more about our products. From cream and milk to butter and spreads, you can rely on us for all your afternoon tea needs. Browse our range of products online today to find out more about how we can help you host the perfect afternoon tea.