How to Host a Modern Afternoon Tea Party
Afternoon tea is the convivial custom of sweets and savories shared over tea with your favorite people. Typically late afternoon, tea is perfect for a celebratory get-together not as involved as a dinner party. Leisurely paced, with bite-sized treats in a mix of textures and flavors, it will be a memorable experience for all.
No doilies. Instead, keep your set up simple by mixing vintage plates and cups you can pick up at antique markets and secondhand shops. Mix with dishes and teacups you already have to keep it casual. Add in cloth napkins and seasonal flowers.
There are a few food musts: Scones with lemon curd or jam and cream, a variety of small sandwiches (what’s your favorite –– smoked salmon, cucumber or chicken salad sandwiches?) and shortbread, petit fours, or mini pastries. If you aren’t a fan of mini sandwiches, try crostini instead. Add some fresh fruit. And, for a surprise, cheese. For example, if you are serving white tea, serve a few figs and a manchego sheep cheese.
Focus on the tea, select two or three types depending on your guests’ likes. Serve a variety of milk, raw sugar, and lemon in your favorite small pitchers and bowls. Put your teapots to use.
Want to add a party favor? Send your guests home with a neatly-packaged small amount of a tea you served, or a small spoon to commemorate your time together.
This selection of tea will perfectly-pair with both sandwiches and sweets:
English Breakfast – Organic – Our rich and powerful English Breakfast is an organic blend of teas from India. It’s rich and malty flavors are a classic choice for any afternoon tea.
Darjeeling – Sungma Estate – Organic – What would afternoon tea be without a Darjeeling? Clean, bright flavors of this cup are nuanced, complex and centering. Sweet notes of wildflowers and white grapes are balanced by the slight woodsy, herbaceous character that makes Darjeeling teas prized.
Red Bush Chai – Add in a caffeine-free option; this one is perfect. A spicy chai… warming and sublime. This chai variation is a potent mix of warming spices. A focus on cinnamon and star anise deepens the piquancy of this blend, while organic rooibos and honeybush give it a syrupy-sweet flavor.
Honey Mead Black Tea – Throw in a surprise with this intense, fruity black tea. Notes of muscat grape greet you and hints of honey and tart cherries come forward. Honey Mead Black Tea honors two ancient beverages: Mead, the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, and tea, another of the world’s oldest beverages. Sip this tea and celebrate the complementary oppositions in life: old and new, light and dark, sweet and savory.
Add in this celebratory shortbread:
Orange Scented Scottish Shortbread with Dark Chocolate
This recipe is one of O’s tasty homemade gifts.
1 Tbsp. raw, granulated, or turbinado sugar
Preheat oven to 325°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and zest by hand or with an electric mixer. Mix in flour and salt, then add chocolate chunks and mix until combined. Dough will be somewhat loose. Using your hands or a pastry ring, shape into an 8-inch circle about 3/4 of an inch thick; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Decoratively crimp edges, if you like. Using a fork, prick dough to mark 8 or 10 even wedges, pressing the tines through to the bottom. Sprinkle with raw sugar, pressing down gently to ensure it sticks. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on the sheet. from Oprah.com
For the younger tea lovers in your life, read our article on How to Host a Children’s Afternoon Tea Party.