Fit for the Queen:
11 Afternoon Tea Party Ideas
What’s the perfect time for a tea party? Anytime! Whether you’re getting your closest friends together to catch up or throwing an epic party or shower, an afternoon tea party is steeped in charm and elegance. Set out your favorite dishes and your comfiest chairs, and get ready for a lovely afternoon. From decor to the order of serving your goodies, we at Pottery Barn have rounded up some of ideas to give you a little inspiration as you start putting together your own afternoon tea.
Ideas for Afternoon Tea Party Decor
Decor sets the tone for your afternoon tea party. From tableware to linens and beyond, these afternoon tea party ideas are sure to add flavor to your party.
1. Food Stands: If you already have a beloved collection of cake stands, by all means use it to display your sweets and sandwiches. If you don’t have any stands, or simply don’t have enough, consider making impromptu dessert stands by placing pretty plates on top of overturned glasses, wide candle jars or soup bowls. Use plates of varying sizes and patterns, and bases of different heights for added visual interest.
2. Tableware: Pay close attention to your selection of tea cups, plates, napkins and linens. They don’t all have to match, but coordination is key. Combine solids with florals and like-colored stripes for a sweet effect that your guests will love. If you have china, this is a great opportunity to use it. If you know you have a rowdier crew, there’s nothing wrong with using more durable options like pretty melamine or even tea-party themed paper goods.
3. Centerpieces: What would a list of afternoon tea party decorations be without mention of centerpieces? Even if you just have one table, adding something pretty to the center gives the room a polished look. Consider using an antique teapot or oversized teacups instead of vases. Fill the vessel with arrangements of your favorite flowers. Think about keeping the arrangements low, so that people sitting across the table can see each other.
The Star of the Show: The Tea
Depending on the season and occasion, you might want to consider offering a mix of hot and iced teas. Or, if you’re going with a theme like a Southern sweet tea, you could stick with iced tea served in elegant glasses. Also, consider having a few pitchers of ice water handy for anyone who’s extra thirsty.
Unless you know that all of your guests have the same preference, consider buying a variety of teas to appeal to everyone.
4. Black teas: Unflavored or flavored, black teas typically serve up bold notes. Examples include the bergamot and citrus Earl Grey, the sharp and robust flavor of Assam or the classic afternoon tea, Darjeeling.
5. Green teas: The flavor of green tea ranges from light and grassy to bold and deeply flavorful. Gunpowder green tea is particularly well suited to pairing with savory sandwiches, while a mint green tea pairs nicely with sweets.
6. Herbal teas: Lavender teas are particularly popular for afternoon tea. Serve just lavender, or a blend with another herb, like spearmint or chamomile.
Afternoon Tea Recipes
Afternoon tea party decor and tea blends are just the beginning of your afternoon tea party planning. Consider serving your guests a variety of savory bites and sweet treats to fill their plates.
7. Tea sandwiches: Tea sandwiches, also known as finger sandwiches, are delicate, small, crustless sandwiches that are no bigger than two to three bites. Traditional afternoon tea recipes include cucumber tea sandwiches, made with white bread, butter, cream cheese and cucumber. Crustless pumpernickel or grainy bread is perfect for making salmon tea sandwiches with thinly sliced smoked salmon and cream cheese. Another popular addition includes egg salad, chicken salad or tuna salad topped with watercress and flavorful spices.
8. Scones: Scones are easy to whip up the day of your afternoon tea party. Much like dense biscuits, when they’re plain and simple, these pastries are typically served alongside clotted cream and jam, or homemade preserves. You can also amp up the flavors by drizzling them with a lemon glaze or adding fruit and nuts to the batter before you bake them.
9. Sweets: Teacakes, shortbreads, cookies and patisserie like mini éclairs, cream puffs and petit fours are a sweet ending to your elegant meal.
The Order of Things
Typically, there’s a structured way that hosts arrange their food. You can go with a traditional approach, or do something all your own.
10. Traditional Tiers: At most teas, you’ll find tiered stands laden with goodies in a very specific order. Savory bites and tea sandwiches on the bottom, scones on the second tier and sweets on top.
11. Mix it Up: Forego the rules and scatter single tiered stands around the table, allowing guests to choose their courses as they please.