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Afternoon tea is one of my favorite things. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love afternoon teas. Heck I love it so much I designed and created my own afternoon tea room in my home. I live on the west coast of Canada and one thing that goes well with our rainy, cloudy days are afternoon teas.
Afternoon tea is definitely a British thing. During the 18th century, dinner came to be served later and later in the day until, by the early 19th century, the normal time was between 7 and 8:30 p.m. An extra meal called luncheon had been created to fill the midday gap between breakfast and dinner, but as this new meal was very light, the long afternoon with no refreshment at all left people feeling hungry. A Duchess found a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. The Duchess found taking an afternoon tea snack to be such a perfect refreshment that she soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon tea quickly became an established and convivial repast in many middle and upper class households.
To experience the quintessential afternoon tea experience in London be sure to visit hotels like Claridges, the Dorchester, the Ritz and the Savoy, as well as Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
In fact, when I was in London in the Spring 2016 I made sure that (afternoon tea) high tea at The Ritz was on our docket. Luckily we also had time for afternoon at Harrods and at the Harry Potter Studio too. In this photo is the maitre’d at The Ritz who ever so spoiled us with extra afternoon tea sandwiches, as in double the size, and champagne…I only took a sip since I don’t drink alcohol:)
If you ever decide to go to the The Ritz in London don’t even attempt to stop by and think you’ll get a table. You need to make reservations. Everything was absolutely perfect at the Ritz. I was intoxicated by scents of fresh white lilies and the opulence was breath taking. The only downside was the dessert were toooooo sweet and I just didn’t like the selection. I didn’t eat any of it. And if you think you can take the rest home with you well they don’t allow take out boxes.
In this blog post I’m going to share how I prepare for my afternoon tea parties and some easy recipes you can make, be it for one person or for 10. Okay, let’s go make some pretty girly girl stuff!
STEP 1: Set the date and guest list.
Make sure you find out if any of your guests have food allergies. It’s no fun if your guests can’t eat any of your delicious sandwiches and desserts right?
STEP 2: Tea time.
The traditional time for afternoon tea is typically between three and five o’clock but many places start as early as 12 noon.
STEP 3: Decide on a theme.
Just like any party you gotta have a theme. Be it a color, a celebration, or an event, decide on a theme. This way when you buy your tea party decor everything will be in keeping with that theme. I’ll go over decor in detail in a few minutes.
STEP 4: Afternoon Tea supplies.
You may not need all these items, it depends on how you want to create your afternoon tea table. In my afternoon tea room that I have set up in my home I have a low table in the middle of the room, a bar cart, and end tables where I place specific items. It’s not traditional by any means and guess what? It doesn’t have to be. Work with the space you have and decide how you want people to move around the room or if you want to have everything in front of your guests. Do what you feel is best for you and your guests.
STEP 5: Music and decorations.
I love making almost anything look pretty especially when it comes to decorations. I am obsessed with attention to detail when it comes to making things pretty, I’m just wired that way so it does come easy to me. I truly enjoy it! It’s just the girlie girl in me I suppose.
STEP 6: Afternoon Tea Sandwich Recipes for four people.
These recipes are super easy to make; the purpose is to fill your bread with them.
a) Egg tea sandwich recipe
Bread to use:
b) Lox Crostini
Cream cheese filling:
Bread to use: Crostini
c) Cucumber tea sandwich
Ingredients for the herb mayonnaise:
Bread to use: Crustless white bread (Tip: I use cookie cutters to make pretty shapes versus just cutting the bread in a rectangular shape. It’s just so much prettier that way, don’t you think?)
d) Curried Chicken tea sandwich
Bread to use: crustless whole wheat bread
STEP 7: Pastries
You can make them or buy them from your favorite bakery. If you want the easy way out…buy them! 🙂
You can find plenty of recipes on my Afternoon Tea Party Pinterest board. There’s no golden rule in terms of what pastries to serve but some of the common ones are French macaroons, lemon tart, petit fours, eclairs, and cream puffs.
STEP 8: How to Set 3-Tiered Stands
There’s a good reason why these cute little treats are merchandised in a 3-tiered plate stand.
Let me share a quick story.
I remember the very first time I experienced an afternoon tea. It was a the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. I was out on a date 🙂 As I reached over to the middle section of the 3-tiered stand my date said “You should start on the bottom first”. Because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself and tried to impress him I turned to him and said “Oh yeah, I know that but I don’t feel like having any sandwiches today. I’ll start with the scones instead”.
There is such as a thing as afternoon tea etiquette and starting at the bottom is one of them. There are more but I’ll have to share those in a future blog post.
But for now know that there is a correct order in which to eat these little wonderful delights.
Tea sandwiches and savories are eaten first with your fingers. Avoid touching the other foods that you’re not going to eat yourself. Before diving into the second course you need to eat all your tea sandwiches first.
Scones are always served with cold devonshire cream or clotted cream eaten with your fingers. I personally prefer devonshire cream which is a little harder to find at times than clotted cream. I find clotted cream way too thick for me plus I do prefer the taste of devonshire cream. Use mini spoons to scoop as much jam and cream as you want!
And of course we saved the best for last with pretty petits fours. These adorable pastries are typically small and eaten in two bites. Each one is gone in 2-3 bites.
Afternoon tea parties with the girls are simply a lovely way to spend the afternoon and catch up with life. It takes me about two days to shop and prep for an afternoon tea party because I tend to go over the top when it comes to entertaining and decor but you don’t have to. For example you don’t have to have a bouquet of flowers you can have single stemmed flowers in a single vase for each person. As long as you stay consistent with your decor theme your tea presentation will still be pretty and elegant.
BTW most times it’s cheaper to just order from a restaurant! Not all things you make yourself will cost less. In fact many times it’s more expensive especially if you have a small group of people. So when you go through my checklist calculate the cost and see if it’s better for you to order from a local afternoon tea restaurant. Maybe you’ll buy some and make some. Nonetheless I hope I’ve inspired you in some way to try afternoon teas. You can easily start with tea and scones and work your way up to the whole shabang! If you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.