English Afternoon Tea

A quick and easy guide to hosting a tea party.  A traditional English afternoon tea party is essentially a filler between the midday and evening meal. Keep your British tea party as simple as possible so you have time and energy to enjoy it.  Over complicating it just makes it really stressful.

A quick guide on how to host a traditional English Afternoon Tea. Have English tea Indoors or outdoors with a few simple delicious typical British tea cakes, pastries, biscuits and sandwiches.  Paired with tea that works with all of these.
English Afternoon Tea

Where to Serve Your Afternoon Tea?


Garden – under a shady tree with a little table laid with a beautiful table cloth.

Balcony – either a tea table laid out or spread a picnic blanket

Park or local woods or picnic area – depending on the number of guest, several picnic blankets set out with cushions to lean/sit on.


Dining table – with fresh flowers/foliage to mimic the outdoors, if you are missing the outdoors or

With lots of candles and dimmed lamps for that hugge vibe.

Near the fireplace – spread a rug or two with blankets and cushions.

Setting a table for tea should be fun and needs to have the wow factor.  Different textures and heights but work with colours that go together
Laying Out Your Tea Table for Afternoon Tea

The Tea Table

This is where all the attention is going to be for your afternoon tea party. Are you going to set the table in truly traditional style with all the crockery and cutlery matching or some semblance of matchiness to it? With that vintage tea set in mind. The tea table here is set for indoors of just a few meters from your kitchen. So you can pop in and bring out the warm scones, toast crumpets and of course brew the tea.

Start layering the table with one or more different textured tablecloths, old curtains (cut to size), spreads. Set out tea cups, saucers, half plates and cutlery (more on what cutlery later).  If you have pretty collection of vintage tea ware, now is the time to show them off.  Not into the delicate and ornateness of Edwardian or Victorian tea sets?  Charity shops, antique fairs, flea markets and online fairs have some really grand and quirky collections.

Table napkins that you can cut out from disused sheet or table cover to add to the occasion.  Fresh or beautifully made fake flower arrangements not just for the centre but maybe dotted around. This is where you can let your imagination flow or if its not your thing, keep it simple.

Afternoon tea is finger food.  From making your sure little finger peeks out when you drink from your tea cups to how you eat the food.  The exception really is when eating cake for which you will need a small folk.  Having said that, if you are serving French patisserie, then a folk will be called for.

Like a café or patisserie window, lay out the food at different heights. A cake stand for your cake or scones. Different sized plates for all the other foods. If jam or butter is needed, put some into a small serving dish with its own spoon/butter knife. Have your milk in a wee milk (warmed) jug.

A set table will have so much more impact and get your guests ready for a stylish afternoon.

Food for an afternoon English tea should certainly have cake, certainly tea cakes, biscuits and finger sandwiches.
Tea Table Laden with Afternoon Tea

Tea Party Food

Cake needs to be your crowning glory as far as the food is concerned.  Something seasonal, like an apple cake or an old favourite like a lemon drizzle.  Around this central axis will revolve everything else you serve.  I have been known to make 2/3 cakes, well, because it’s a party!!

Another quintessentially English cake to serve is a tea cake.  This is where you can infuse Earl on the Moor tea to make it a truly special cake.

Bakewell jam tarts, mini tarts with sweet fillings.

Something warm like scones or crumpets on which your guests can butter lavishly and scoop up any dripping butter.

Biscuits  – flavours that work with the cakes or ones you know turn out really well when you make them.  Or ask your guests to help out and they could make it.  A sweet and a savoury one should cater to all tastes.

Sandwiches – rather nice to have sandwiches with the crusts cut off and in little triangles which can be eaten in one or three mouthfuls.  You could have the quintessential cucumber sandwiches, egg and cress or ham and cheese. Here are some other combinations:

  • Devilled crab
  • Roast beef, chutney and blue cheese
  • Coronation chicken

Quiches – mini ones like:

  • Cheese and onion
  • Ham and cheese or spinach and mushroom
  • Smoked salmon
The center of your tea table for a traditional British Afternoon tea. the tea you serve should pair well with all the food on the tea table.
What Tea do you Serve for an English Afternoon Tea?


The entire reason for this party.  Even though there are such a wide range of teas, black tea will go well with any of the above and most importantly with all of them.  Make sure it’s a really good Ceylon Black like our own Ms Black.

If it’s a summer tea party, iced teas well go down a treat. A Ceylon Black cold brewed would go splendidly well.  Recipes on this blog page on how to cold brew Ceylon tea.

Your table is set, guests have arrived oohed and ahhhed at your stunning display and when you pop in to get the scones warmed/crumpets toasted.  Time to brew tea:

Pour freshly filtered cold water into your kettle and boil.

Pour some into your tea pot, swirl and throw the water out. Your tea pot is ready for the tea.

Spoon in a tea spoon of tea and  pour in 200ml of hot water per person.

Take it to the tea table.

Brew for 3 minutes per person.  Do not stir the tea at all!!!

Place a sieve on the tea cup and pour into the tea cups leaving room for milk.

Your guests can add milk and sugar as preferred.

Its important that there is always tea to top up your guests’ tea cups. This is the only bit where you need to leave the tea table to go in and brew up a fresh pot of tea. Never ever leave a tea pot stewing with good tea.  It absolutely must be made fresh each time.

Happy Tea Party!

Set a tea table that provides all your favourites food and the best tea
Afternoon Tea for Indoors and Outdoors