Between the 10th August and the 16th August, Britain celebrates Afternoon Tea Week. Drinking tea is a well-loved British tradition as is spending time in the kitchen, baking. Quite rightly so, a celebration of our love for tea leaves and all things scrumptious is now dedicated to a week of the year. After my recent visit to London I was inspired to write this post and I would thoroughly recommend if you are visiting Britain to treat yourself to an Afternoon Tea. Don’t worry if you are visiting at other times of the year, Afternoon Tea is served throughout the year. However, it may vary from one establishment to the next, so it’s always best to check ahead of your visit!
I thought I would share my top ten guide to hosting an Afternoon Tea at home.
1. Why host an Afternoon Tea?
Growing up, were you like me and enjoyed hosting tea parties for your dolls and teddies? Some things fade as you get older, but even though I’m in my thirties, I still get nostalgic for the old summer days, which is why I enjoy organising Afternoon Tea parties. The only thing that is different now is that it’s not for dolls! I can safely say that I loved every minute setting up this table for my Afternoon Tea and there is nothing better than spending time with family and friends. You might even want to do an Afternoon Tea for a special occasion. Seriously though, do we need a reason to have Afternoon Tea? It is after all a great way to relax and enjoy a day, so much so you might as well have a mini one just for yourself!
2. Where to host Afternoon Tea?
As my blog is all about the garden and gardening, I would definitely say that outdoors is a great place to start, being surrounded by nature. If you have balconies or allotments, they too are just as ideal. Yet there is nothing to say that you can’t have Afternoon Tea indoors, in fact most of the hotels serve theirs inside. For me though, the garden is where I find peace and tranquility so why not add tea and cake as the side order to the afternoon. It is however, entirely up to you where you decide to host, you and the weather of course!
We all know, especially as gardeners, that when it comes to the weather, it is out of our control. On the other hand, a plus to being a gardener is that come rain or shine, we embrace the moment and get on with it! We don’t let it dampen our spirits, if anything, rain means we won’t have to do the watering later when we’re feeling a ‘Sunday afternoon feeling’ after eating all the cake and drinking the tea! I always think plants and the garden look fresh and rejeuvanted after a downpour, which is why, today of all days when I wanted to take photos for this post, I didn’t get upset with a little bit of rain. It also helps that we have an outside, undercover seating area. If this is not a possibility in your garden, this would be an ideal opportunity to have an Afternoon Tea indoors.
4. Drinks to serve
Traditionally, English Breakfast tea or Earl Grey tea would be the drink to have with your baked goodies. However, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea (sorry for the pun) and there is nothing in the rule book to say you can’t serve fruity or flavoured teas. Why not use mint from your garden in boiled water to make fresh mint tea? I have to say being British when I’m abroad, I sometimes get asked how I can drink a hot cup of tea on a hot summer’s day, and in truth, ironically it can be refreshing.
You can always serve cold drinks for those guests who might be sweating in the corner. Again there is no right or wrong as long as everyone is having a good time!
5. Food to eat
No Afternoon Tea is complete without the tiered cake stand at the centre of your table. There will be many variations to what mouth-watering delights you will find, but more often than not, scones will take pride of place, with jam and cream in adjacent dishes. There could also be iced buns, fairy cakes (cupcakes), loaf cakes and the good old trusty friend, the Victoria Sandwich as alternatives. Again there is no written rule; at the end of the day it’s really what you fancy to eat.
I decided to bake fairy cakes as I had been inspired by the insects that help us in the garden and well, it is a garden Afternoon Tea party after all. In addition, I like to save scones for trips to Cornwall, in the south-west of Britain, where they are famous for their Cornish cream teas!
On the top of my cake stand you will see cucumber sandwiches, something which in the past have been served with Afternoon Tea. It’s also really handy as we’ve had a glut of cucumbers at the moment. You could again have different sandwich fillings.
I love bunting, I really think it adds to an outdoor party. You can buy bunting from many shops these days, all with different designs but the one you see here on this photo was one I made using my sewing machine for the first time ever! It was a simple, yet fun and effective piece to create. The best thing about it though is it can be used over and over again for many more parties in the garden to come!
Cut flowers are again something I think adds to an outdoor party and roses for me are very British which is perfect for an Afternoon Tea, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use other cut flowers. In fact, this is an ideal opportunity for those of you who already have dedicated a patch of your garden for flowers for home decoration to use some of them at your garden party table. For those of you who prefer growing vegetables, there is always the option to visit a farm where you can pick your own cut flowers or as an easier option, the shops.
You can pick and mix your vases as I did or you can keep quite simple with one theme. If you have recently read my post – ‘Plant of the Month: August’, you will see that I have found another great use for lavender.
On a sunny summer’s afternoon, there is very little need for extra lighting. You will probably need your sunglasses instead. Yet if your afternoon party was continuing in to the evening or even on rainy, gloomy days, candles are a great accompaniment to the table.
I love Yankee Candles, not only for their wonderfully perfumed scents and colourful candle wax but also for the pretty container with a lid, that the candles all come in. If you’re like me and like to recycle, at the end of their candle life the jar is fully functional for all my crafty bits and bobs, such as buttons or pins or even for stationary like paper clips.
Alternative lighting that you could also use are fairy lights or lanterns to add a sprinkle of magic to your Afternoon/Evening Tea.
9. Only adults?
Again this is a personal choice, but I think it’s great to include everyone at an Afternoon Tea party. Fairy cakes would be a perfect choice for little hands and I’m sure any of the characters you put on your cakes would be appreciated greatly by imaginative minds. I’ve always thought an Alice in Wonderland themed Afternoon Tea party would be immensely enjoyable for children and adults alike. Just as the cool drink jars with straws (in the photo above) would be a hit amongst everyone. This way of serving a cold beverage is becoming more and more popular as we speak for outdoor parties. If children get bored with the chitter chatter of adults, there could always be outdoor games provided for them on the grass, you might even find some adults disappearing to join in the fun and games!
10. Most importantly – ENJOY!
Preparation for gatherings of friends and family is not always easy and time can evaporate into thin air. Make sure you find time to enjoy all the hard work you put in, whether it’s a quiet moment by yourself perhaps reading and sipping tea, or sharing in the laughter with loved ones. Either way, an Afternoon Tea is the perfect way to spend well, an afternoon!