If you’re wondering what to serve with tea, we’ve found the best afternoon tea party recipes for any special occasion. You’ll love how simple it is to host such an elegant event for your close friends, and they’re going to love the dainty cups of tea and delicious recipes!
We love to host an a traditional afternoon tea for bridal showers, garden parties, and baby showers. You could also host a fun Downton Abbey themed party if you wanted with these ideas!
It may feel a little overwhelming to host your own afternoon tea party, but we’re going to walk you through each step. From the theme and guest list to the menu and presentation.
Where did afternoon tea parties come from?
Afternoon tea parties started in the early 1800s with British upper class. Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is rumored to have started the British tradition when she began enjoying tea and a light snack in between breakfast and dinner. She enjoyed it so much that she started inviting a few high society friends over to join her and to go for an afternoon walk. From there it grew in popularity and is now British tradition.
What to Serve with Tea – High Tea vs. Low Tea
There are different types of afternoon tea parties, and each require a little something different.
You could host a “Cream Tea” with just tea and cream scones to a three-course meal for high-tea.
Traditionally speaking, “Low Tea” is served around 4pm to the upper class. It’s served on low tables in a garden or parlor. Low tea includes biscuits (cookies), pastries, and mini fruit tarts typically.
Whereas “High Tea” is like an early dinner served to the working class on a high table. High tea usually includes hearty foods like meat, potatoes, casseroles, and baked goods with tea.
Other non-traditional ideas include:
- Champagne Tea – dainty foods served with a glass of champagne
- Chocolate Tea – dainty foods served with dark cocoa or white hot chocolate
How to Host the Perfect Afternoon Tea Party
If you can’t make it to London for a traditional afternoon tea, you can create the elegant atmosphere in your own garden, backyard, or living room. The good news is when you’re hosting the party, you can choose if you want the mood to be more dainty or more casual as well!
What You’ll Need to Do
- Decide on the mood you want to create
- Choose invitations that match the mood
- Plan your menu
- Prepare the food & tea
- Decorate your area
If you’re struggling to decide on the mood of your afternoon tea party think about:
- How many friends are invited? Do you want to impress them or enjoy a casual chat over a cup of tea?
- Do you want this to be a light or hearty meal?
- How long do you want the tea to last?
- How much prep work do you want to do?
- What to serve with tea
Once you know what you’re wanting out of the party, you’ll be able to pick out the right food, tea, and serving pieces you want to use.
Essential Afternoon Tea Party Decor
Along with planning what to serve at an afternoon tea party, you’ll also want a few pieces of decor. We recommend having food stands, tableware, and fresh-flowers as centerpieces.
1. Food Stands
We love to find antique cake stands to display finger sandwiches, mini quiches, sweet treats, and other small bites. You can also use a variety of glasses and bowls to create a variety of heights for your foods.
If there was ever a time to focus on your teacups, plates, and table linens – it’s at an afternoon tea! Instead of picking a theme, we like to choose a feminine color scheme or mix pretty china patterns for an eclectic feel.
You’ll also want to include fresh flowers in center pieces to add to the atmosphere. Keep in mind, the height of flower arrangements should be low enough people can talk over them.
What Tea Should You Serve?
Depending on the theme, season, and how traditional you want to keep your afternoon tea party, you could offer a variety of hot and cold tea.
For example, if you’re not going traditional – you could offer ice Southern sweet tea; however, that would be frowned upon across the pond.
If you’re going traditional, you’ll want to serve brewed loose tea with milk and sugar. It’s also nice to have a few thin lemon slices available for guests. Check out this guide to make a “proper” cup of English tea for the best tea to serve at a party.
3 More Teas to Serve
1. Black tea
Earl Grey or Darjeeling are both great, traditional choices to serve for an afternoon tea party.
2. Green teas
You could also offer a green tea because of the subtle flavor.
3. Herbal teas
Lavender, spearmint, chamomile are all great herbal varieties that you could serve.
Now that you know what kind of tea you’ll serve, you’ll want to plan your afternoon tea menu.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to include light finger foods, pastries, and desserts and avoid “heavy treats” like cupcakes and muffins.
Mini quiches, egg salad, mini sandwiches, scones with clotted cream or strawberry jam, and tea cakes are all great ideas.