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A much-loved tradition among the aristocratic society of London for centuries, afternoon tea was brought about with the intent to be a light bite to tide you over between breakfast and dinner. Still popular today, it’s served in many forms – from dainty cream teas to lavish three-course meals with finger sandwiches, cakes, and even champagne flutes. Here’s how to serve a splendid afternoon tea elegantly.
First, you need to decide whether you will be dining indoors or outdoors. If the sun is shining, eating al fresco on some comfy outdoor furniture might be lovely. If clouds are looming or there’s a chill in the air, it might be better to set tea up at the indoor dining table instead.
Give your table an elegant aesthetic worthy of a tea garden or luxury establishment with a fresh white or floral table cloth, attractive runner, and matching placemats. Doilies on saucers and small plates instantly transform the look of your table, and a vase of flowers in the centre will complete the look.
When we think of afternoon tea, one of the first things that springs to mind is fine china. Beautiful cups and saucers with charming patterns will brighten your table and give you the authentic teatime feel. Place a silver teaspoon on the side of each setting to stir sugar and milk.
Afternoon tea isn’t supposed to be a heavy, belly-filling meal. Serve your guests a spread of cut sandwiches, scones with fresh cream and jam, and dainty sweet treats such as small pastries or slices of cake. To win points for presentation, lay them on tiered cake stands and patterned plates with the conserves and cream in separate ramekins or dishes. If you’d like to set these all out in preparation, rather than waiting until everyone is seated, then food umbrellas or a covering of cling film will help keep the flies away.
Of course, the base of any afternoon tea is tea! Whether you're brewing loose leaf, bags, flavoured, or simple and standard tea, having a teapot (or pots!) that's up for the job is essential. Think about how many guests you're having and ensure your pot can hold enough water to fill up everyone's cups at least once - you can always refill it for more rounds. Why not have more than one pot brewing with different flavours so guests can choose which one they'd like?
ait for your guests to arrive before you flick the kettle on to ensure the tea doesn't go cold whilst you wait. Bring out the pot(s) on a lovely serving tray to keep things classy and prevent spills. If you're serving loose-leaf tea, be sure to have a strainer at hand when pouring it out - you can place it on a cute spoon rest or teabag tidy in between pouring to stop it from soaking into the linen.