How To Serve Afternoon Tea

What is afternoon tea

Afternoon Tea, or low tea, is a small meal of tea sandwiches, scones, pastries, cakes, and other delectable treats piled up on plates and served with tea between lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea may be enjoyed as an informal social gathering at the coffee table. It may also be a more formal affair at the dining table, either at home, or at a restaurant offering afternoon tea service.

Afternoon tea originated in 1840’s Britain as a private social event. Traditionally served at 4pm, this small meal was intended to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner, which could be served as late as 8pm. Like tea itself, afternoon tea has gained popularity over the years, and has become an anticipated experience in hotels, tea rooms, and spas throughout the world.

How to serve afternoon tea

Afternoon tea may be served in the afternoon (go figure), between lunch and dinnertime. All you need is some tea, food, and friends.

What tea to serve

As for tea, the sky is the limit. Tea should pair well with food. The safe play is a good strong pot of black tea, like a breakfast tea, or a single estate black tea. When serving guests with limited tea exposure, this is often what they imagine when they think ‘tea.’

To spruce up the experience, try serving a seasonal blend. This can go well with a seasonal themed afternoon tea service.

For a caffeine-free experience, try a robust rooibos blend, or explore herbal tisanes. Herbal tisanes have a good potential for interesting food pairings.

Green teas and certain oolongs may be paired with lighter flavor foods. An amber oolong, such as Wu Yi has a more robust and toasty flavor that goes well savory foods, and compliments sweets very well. Pu-erh blends are very rich with a distinct earthy flavor, and may be better suited for heavier meals.

On a sweltering day, flip the script; try a tall glass of iced tea. It’s afternoon, it’s tea, why not?

Afternoon tea food

Fresh scones with preserves and cream or butter, tea cakes, tea sandwiches, tarts, biscuits, and french pastries piled up on plates. And plates piled up on tiered trays. Small dainties in abundance for your guests to pluck to their heart’s content. That is the afternoon tea experience.

The recipe ideas are endless. Some are very simple. If it’s small and beautiful, and pairs well with tea, put it on a plate!

Check out The Spruce for afternoon tea recipe ideas.

Afternoon tea tableware

The standard tea service tableware will do. You’ll need a large teapot and infuser, tea cups and saucers. If serving with milk and sugar, you’ll need a cream pitcher and sugar bowl.

Aside from small plates for serving and silverware, you may need ramekins for individual portions of preserves and cream if you are serving scones or other pastries that require spreads. While afternoon tea is typically served on tiered trays, they are not essential.

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