This article was published on September 24th, 2011
Gone are the days of old ladies wearing big hats sitting in a parlor sipping tea with their pinkies in the air. “High Tea” was for the British working class, who had tea as their supper, which was a hearty meal of sandwiches and scones. In many regions of the world, tea is an honour of tradition.
Over time, the tradition of afternoon tea has evolved. Today’s afternoon tea can range from casual to formal. Afternoon tea may be hosted from early to late afternoon and is enjoyed by both men and women.
Afternoon tea is a great alternative if you want to host a party. It doesn’t have to be as sophisticated or elaborate as a formal dinner party. It is a nice way to spend an afternoon catching up with friends, celebrating a birthday, baby or bridal shower, anniversary or retirement party, or a graduation.
Food is always prepared in advance of guests arriving. It can be served buffet style or served by passing plates at the table. Whether the occasion is casual or formal, the table should always be set with the best china, silver and linens.
To make a perfect pot of tea, pour cold water into a kettle and let it come to a hard boil. While the kettle is boiling, pour hot water into your teapot. When the kettle is comes to the hard boil, dump the hot water from the teapot, put in your fresh tea, and add the freshly boiled water. Cover and let steep for four minutes. When it’s done steeping, remove the tea and discard. Always keep an extra kettle of hot water to weaken strong tea, or to quickly make another fresh pot.
Here are some useful tips to help you plan and host your next afternoon English tea party:
- Choose the date of the tea party. Formal tea parties should have invitations mailed. For casual parties, include a tea bag in the invitation, or send the invitation by email.
- Purchase tea supplies in advance. Have several teapots to make and serve a variety of teas.
- For casual mid-afternoon tea, prepare lighter snacks and small bites. If the tea party replaces a meal, serve a larger variety and heartier food. Traditional English tea has both savory and sweet fare served including scones, biscuits and tea sandwiches. Traditional tea sandwiches include:
- Egg salad
- Cucumber and cream cheese or cucumber and mint
- Chicken salad
- Smoked salmon
- Tuna salad with capers
- Asparagus and Prosciutto
- Chicken Pate
- Traditional English teas served include Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Darjeeling. Queen Elizabeth prefers Darjeeling, also known as the “Champagne” of teas. Loose-leaf tea is superior to bagged tea.
- Serve milk, cream, sugar, lemon, and honey so each guest can enjoy their tea just the way they like.
Use thinly sliced and good quality bread. A thin coating of butter keeps the bread from getting soggy. Trim the crust from the sandwich and cut into small pieces, typically no larger than two-bite size.