Last updated on October 5th, 2022
Taking Part In This Tradition Today
An English tea party is one of the most traditional English activities out there, but that doesn’t mean you should be scared of it or feel as though you can’t host an English tea party yourself at home. In this post we’ll take you through everything you need to know about English tea parties, and then give you some great English tea party ideas, so you can host an amazing party at home for all your friends and family.
English Tea Parties: An English Tradition Like No Other
Don’t let that title scare you. Yes, English tea parties are traditional and have some ‘rules’ (we use that term very loosely) surrounding them, but once you get your head around what an English afternoon tea party is all about, you can start to prepare for one.
First things first, if you aren’t from England and have never visited, you can absolutely still throw a traditional English tea party. All you need to know is that the English LOVE their tea. It’s been a part of English culture since the 19th century, and it’s as important to the English today as it ever was.
History of English afternoon tea
In fact, afternoon tea started in the early 1800s, allegedly by the Duchess of Bedford, Anna the 7th. In those days, people usually ate two meals a day: breakfast and dinner. It was said that Anna felt ill in the afternoon due to feeling weak and light-headed, and so she was served afternoon tea to make her feel better. And it worked! It worked so well, in fact, that she invited friends for afternoon tea almost daily, and eventually it spread like wildfire across the whole of England.
And that brings us to where we are today. You’ve heard about English afternoon tea, and now you want to host an afternoon tea party too. If you’re doing any research outside of this post though, then just be warned that there’s a difference between afternoon tea (also known as low tea) and high tea.
High tea originated amongst the working classes, and was a meal that was eaten between 5 and 7pm to fuel them after a long day of manual labour. Low tea, however, was the light snacks that we associate with afternoon tea today – a light meal to keep you full until it is time for dinner. Afternoon tea is typically served between 3 and 4pm. It’s important you remember this difference, because if you invite somebody over for afternoon tea and then serve large meals at 3pm, they might be unprepared.
So, now you know everything about the background of afternoon tea, lets get into what to serve, and then look at products that will make your party look and feel amazing!
What Do We Serve At English Tea Parties?
Like we’ve already said, afternoon tea should be about light meals, served with a pot of delicious tea. What those snacks or light meals look like may vary slightly today, but since we want to throw a traditional English afternoon tea party, we’ll take you through a menu that’s as close to traditional as you can get!
You can realistically serve any tea you like here, but Earl Grey is one of the most traditional black teas that is served with afternoon tea. Some more modern alternatives that work just as well with all the sweet treats and sandwiches we’ll talk about below, are:
-Lavender Herbal Tea
-Gunpowder Green Tea
Sugar and Cream
Sugar and cream are essential at any English tea party, especially one served with black teas, as many English people will have their tea with cream and sugar, so make sure this is set out on the table ready for your guests.
There are 3 main tiers on an afternoon tea stand: the first of which is for sandwiches. You can make whatever you like here, but some common ones are cucumber sandwiches, salmon sandwiches, and even crab sandwiches. You can even serve them altogether as variety is also key to an afternoon tea. Meat isn’t all that common, as this is usually reserved for dinner, so anything with seafood or vegetables will work well here.
The second tier is for cakes. Individual servings are key, so don’t bring out an entire victoria sponge and start cutting it at the table. Instead, bake small cakes that are prettily decorated – afternoon tea is as much about the aesthetic as it is the taste. You can make any of your favourite muffins, cupcakes, or slices of cake so long as you serve them individually as a perfect small sweet treat. Lemon cake works well, and so do pistachio cakes, but again, it’s really up to you.
The last tier is traditionally reserved for scones or tea cakes, both of which are staples of the English diet. If you’re serving scones, they should be served with jam and cream, and tea cakes should be served toasted with a side of butter. You could also make biscuits for the top tier instead if you don’t like scones or tea cakes, but this is less traditional.
How To Make The Tea Party Look Great?
OK, now you know what a tea party is about, and you also know what to serve. Now all you need to know is how to make the party itself look great and we have just the things available on our website!
To start with, you’re going to need a traditional tower tray for serving all your delicious treats, and we have just the thing. It’s elegant, traditional, and really looks the part. It also has the three tiers we spoke about earlier, so you can throw the perfect English afternoon tea party in the comfort of your own home.
Classy Tea Set for Afternoon Tea Party
English tea party decorations aren’t necessary, and it’s because the chinawear that is used as part of the tea set is usually a work of art in itself. Take a look at our suggested chinawear and you’ll understand why the intricate patterns, lovely colours, and elegant style mean you don’t need to decorate every corner of your sitting room to host a perfect English tea party.
Having said that, you still want to decorate your table, and there’s no better way than with a table cloth. Our suggestion is embroidered with butterflies and really has a traditional feel to it. It’s visually stunning without being distracting, which is perfect because your attention should be on having a great time at your English afternoon tea party!
If you follow the advice in this post, pick up the products we’ve suggested, and serve your afternoon tea according to our menu, then you’re guaranteed to have a successful English tea party that is both traditional, stylish, and a whole lot of fun – for a more than reasonable price!