“Let’s meet up for afternoon tea!” – a phrase infused with euphoria and relaxation. Less formal than dinner and so much more elegant than lunch. I love the afternoon tea ritual and always looking for excuses to invite friends round the flat.

Afternoon tea party
Afternoon tea can be as elaborate or as simple as you like to make it. At the very least though, it should involve a proper teapot, choice of black or green tea and something irresistibly delicious to go with it.

For a simple tête-à-tête with a close friend, I usually serve generous slices of cherry Genoa cake, good Darjeeling tea and tiny chocolate truffles to nibble at leisure. If you want to go a step up, get out a small bottle of well chilled prosecco.

Party time
A larger group of friends or work colleagues requires a little bit more effort. My friend Rosemary hosted a glitzy afternoon tea party for twelve, celebrating her birthday. That was quite involved, so she chose to take us all to a posh hotel and fork out for the massive bill. Nonetheless if the numbers are manageable it can be done at home: Bite sized, Crustless sandwiches filled with smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese can be prepared in advance, (but no earlier than a couple of hours or they start going stale.) Mini bagels can also be a good option. Cucumber sandwiches are surprisingly hard to recreate at home and I would suggest mixing thin slices of cucumber with cracked pepper  and greek yogurt. Alternatively use good quality ready made tzatziki as a scrumptious filing for mini pitta sandwiches. Victoria sponge cake, miniature chocolate eclairs and petit four sized fruit tarts. I would not have the time to prepare this, even if I had the pastry chef skills, so I get them from Paul’s or Patisserie Valerie. A selection of teas is nice to have at hand, say earl grey, a good oolong and maybe a herbal infusion for anyone who actually hates tea. A large bottle of prosecco, champagne or basic cocktails are good accompaniment. If I were any good at baking, I’d add home made scones with clotted cream and home made strawberry jam. Since I don’t bake I get ready made crumpets which I serve with lashings of plain or anchovy butter. Delectable!

Family afternoon tea When my mother visits I let her make scones, since she is really good at it and seems to have special scone making powers – which we are all thankful for. I show my appreciation by ordering some exciting petit fours from Harrods and buy really good gravalax for crustless sandwiches. When my sister is here, or my dad for that matter, we focus on G&T’s.

Impromptu cup of tea
I also keep packets of Mr kiplings french fancies and mini jam tarts in the pantry, you never know who might drop by…the trick here is not to eat them all by myself. Afternoon tea

Presentation matters
If the plan is to organise a lot of tea parties, invest in a tiered serving dish. Sandwiches go at the bottom, pastries/petit fours at the top. An attractive teapot, some polished silver and linen napkins will add to the sense of ocassion, but the main thing is to make everyone feel comfortable. Is everyone included in the conversation? Do they have something to eat? Do they seem happy to be here? If not, quick – get the champagne out right now! Cheers everyone…

This is not the time for gluten intolerance...

Happiness isvwhen someone hands you a glass of champagne.  Cheers everyone...

Happiness is when someone hands you a glass of champagne. Cheers everyone…

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10 thoughts on “Short guide to Hosting an afternoon tea party…

  1. pgshore

    What a coincidence, Lady Sarah! The Hubster & I are hosting a guest from Wales early next week for afternoon tea. She once served tea to Prince Charles (Really! It’s on her web site!) so I will do it properly, warming the pot in advance, brewing loose tea (definitely NOT tea bags!), and serving on my late grandmother’s inexpensive-but-vintage china. Shall I buy a tiered serving dish, do you think? If I can find a pretty on in a thrift shop?

  2. Hanna

    (have to pass by the local “Crabtree&Evelyn” where they sell Lemon curd; instead of those wonderful scones we serve Brioches, but there is no substitute for clotted cream…)

    1. pgshore

      Clotted cream… now THAT brings back memories, Hannah! The Hubster & I discovered scones with clotted cream and jam on our honeymoon in England 37 years ago. I gained 5 pounds in a mere 3 weeks… took the entire summer to get it off!

      It’s possible to purchase clotted cream in the U.S., but there is simply no substitute for the fresh clotted cream available in little tea shops in The Cotswolds.

  3. Virginia

    I weep and salivate as I read this!! I truely believe afternoon tea to be a gift of the gods! And i fantasize about taking Lady Sarah to tea in London!! I shall have to settle with my daily hosting tea with my client and her daughter at their home (Where i work Thurs. through Sunday). Tea and fruit are our limits, and i insist on 4pm as Dame Maggie Smith always has 4pm teas in her movies! Thank you again for a tea post Lady Sarah.

  4. dottoressa

    I like your “tea posts” very much,as well as having an afternoon tea in London,it’always a delight. I miss it here ( but that is good for weight and silhouette !),especially clotted cream and scones

  5. silkpathdiary

    Too wonderful for words!!! I’m looking forward to getting back into afternoon tea making mode as things settle Chez SPD 🙂 It’s fabulous how you keep us updated with your tea posts – thank you!


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