We don’t know if it’s because of all the royal weddings and royal babies lately, but tea parties are back. The traditional afternoon affairs have always been a popular option for bridal or baby showers, and finally, people are catching on that you can also throw one just… because.
The thing is, there’s so much more to a great tea party than just tea. Part of the magic is in the elegance of it all, and the rest is in the detail: crustless sandwiches, clotted cream for your scones and painstakingly gorgeous mini-desserts. That said, anyone can throw a great tea party with the right hardware, a few good recipes and some store-bought pastries.
Whether you’re planning a tea party or just curious about exactly what goes into one, here’s everything you need to know about hosting afternoon tea.
Get a tiered cake stand or 2
A tea party involves tea, yes, but it’s really more about the finger sandwiches and tiny cakes. You could serve them all up on regular plates, but investing in a tiered stand or two will make your party feel instantly more legit. We love these simple but elegant stands ($46.99 at Amazon).
Find a pretty tea set that won’t break the bank
Obviously, you’re going to need a tea set. The thing is, this isn’t something you’ll be breaking out all the time, so it’s probably not worth spending an enormous amount of money on something super-fancy. We like this one ($63.49 at Amazon) because it’s pretty but reasonably priced.
Keep decorations minimal
It’s a tea party, not your kid’s superhero birthday. Pull out your nicest tablecloth (or go out and buy one) and set out dessert or appetizer plates, not full-size dinner plates, for guests to eat their scones, sandwiches, and cakes on.
Get some real English tea
For a tea party, Lipton just won’t do. Order a few different types of loose tea so you can brew a couple of pots at once. Go with one black tea, like English breakfast or Earl Grey, plus a few others, like chamomile and Ceylon orange pekoe. We like Twinings brand tea ($13.99 at Amazon), which is available in stores and online.
English-style scones are a little different than the ones you find in your local coffee shop. They’re flakier, like biscuits, and round. This English scone recipe is a great one, and you can scale up or down based on how many guests are coming over. Serve them with salted butter, clotted cream, raspberry jam and marmalade.
Make tea sandwiches, & definitely cut off the crusts
Sandwiches may seem simple, but there are certain rules you need to follow here. First, stick to the classics: cucumber, smoked salmon, coronation chicken, etc. Second, always cut off the crusts. Third, use different types of bread for different sandwiches so your sandwich tray isn’t just a sea of beige. Here are four great sandwich options you should try.
Buy some petit fours
If you want to go the extra mile and make your own petit fours, this step-by-step tutorial and recipe will walk you through it. If you’re not quite at that level (it’s pretty time-consuming!), hit up your local bakery and buy an assortment of petit fours and cute little cakes.
Have a little booze at the ready too
Yes, it’s a tea party. Yes, it’s the afternoon. But it’s still a party, and that means you should have something stronger than tea available for anyone who wants to partake. A few bottles of prosecco should do the trick.
Once you’ve assembled your equipment, chosen your recipes and put together a guest list, all you need to do is pick an afternoon and send out those invites!