How to Host a Perfect Afternoon Tea Party at Home

Afternoon Tea

Are you looking for a quintessential British experience?

Do you love scones, sandwiches and cakes? Do you want to sip tea in elegant surroundings? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to try afternoon tea in London.

Afternoon tea is a tradition that dates back to the 19th century.

Since then, it has become a popular way to enjoy a leisurely afternoon with friends, family or a special someone.

Afternoon Tea

The perfect afternoon tea party at home

If you love the idea of sipping tea and nibbling on delicious treats with your friends, why not host an afternoon tea party at home?

It is easier than you think, and you can make it as fancy or as casual as you like. Let me share some tips and tricks on how to prepare a quintessential afternoon tea menu, set up a beautiful table, and enjoy a relaxing and fun time with your guests.

What is afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea is a British tradition that dates back to the 19th century, when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, felt hungry between lunch and dinner and started having a cup of tea and some snacks in her room.

Soon, she invited her friends to join her, and the practice became popular among the upper class. Nowadays, afternoon tea is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and occasions, from birthdays and weddings to baby showers and holidays.

Afternoon tea typically consists of three courses: savory sandwiches, sweet scones with jam and cream, and assorted pastries and cakes. The tea is usually black, such as Earl Grey or English Breakfast, but you can also serve herbal or green teas if you prefer. The tea is poured from a teapot into a cup with a saucer, and sugar and milk are added according to taste.

What is the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

Afternoon tea and high tea are two British tea traditions that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Afternoon tea is a light meal served around 4 p.m. and includes tea, sandwiches, scones, and cake. It was originally intended to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner at a time when dinner was served as late as 8pm.

On the other hand, high tea is a more substantial meal served in the early evening, often including hot dishes, meat, and vegetables, as well as tea.

The addition of the word “high” to the phrase “high tea” is believed to differentiate between the afternoon tea that is traditionally served on low, comfortable, parlor chairs or relaxing in the garden and the worker’s after-work high tea that is served at the table and seated on high back dining chairs.

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How to plan your afternoon tea menu

The first step to hosting a perfect afternoon tea party is to plan your menu.

You want to have a variety of flavors, colors, and textures to please your guests’ palates and eyes.

Here are some ideas for each course.

Savory sandwiches

You can use any kind of bread you like, such as white, whole wheat, or gluten-free, but make sure to cut off the crusts and slice them thinly. You can also cut them into different shapes, such as triangles, squares, or fingers. Some classic fillings are cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill, egg salad and cress, ham and cheese, and chicken and cranberry.

Sweet scones

Scones are buttery biscuits that are best served warm with jam and clotted cream. You can make them plain or add some dried fruits or nuts for extra flavor. You can also make them vegan or gluten-free if you have dietary restrictions. To make them fluffy and tender, don’t overmix the dough and use a sharp cutter to cut out the rounds.

Assorted pastries and cakes

This is where you can get creative and showcase your baking skills. You can make mini versions of your favorite cakes, such as Victoria sponge, carrot cake, or lemon drizzle. You can also make cupcakes, muffins, brownies, cookies, macarons, or eclairs. The key is to make them bite-sized and attractive.

Afternoon Tea

How to set up an afternoon tea table

The next step is to set up your table with the right equipment and decorations.

You will need:

  • A large tablecloth to cover your table and create a cozy atmosphere.
  • A cake stand or tiered tray to display your pastries and cakes.
  • A teapot or two to brew your tea. You can use a traditional ceramic one or a modern glass one.
  • A tea cozy to keep your tea warm.
  • A milk jug and a sugar bowl with a spoon.
  • A strainer to filter out the tea leaves.
  • Teacups and saucers for each guest. You can use matching ones or mix and match different patterns and colors.
  • Small plates and forks for each guest.
  • Napkins to wipe your fingers.
  • A vase with fresh flowers to add some charm and fragrance.
  • A centerpiece to add some interest and personality. You can use candles, figurines, books, or anything else that suits your theme.
Afternoon Tea

How to serve your afternoon tea

The final step is to serve your afternoon tea with grace and etiquette.

Here are some dos and don’ts to follow:

  • Do fill your teapot with boiling water and let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes before pouring.
  • Do offer your guests milk and sugar before pouring their tea.
  • Do hold your teacup by the handle and sip gently.
  • Do place your napkin on your lap and use it to dab your mouth.
  • Do eat your sandwiches first, then your scones, then your pastries.
  • Do use your fork to break off small pieces of your pastries and eat them in one bite.
  • Don’t stir your tea in a circular motion or clink your spoon against the cup.
  • Don’t lift your pinky finger when holding your cup.
  • Don’t dunk your scones or pastries in your tea.
  • Don’t put jam or cream on both halves of your scone. Instead, spread them on one half at a time.

How to enjoy your afternoon tea

The most important thing to remember when hosting an afternoon tea party is to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Afternoon tea is not only about the food and the tea, but also about the conversation and the company. So, relax, chat, laugh, and make some memories with your friends. You will be surprised how much joy a simple cup of tea can bring.

But where can you find the best afternoon tea in London?

With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to decide. That is why we have compiled this list of the best 5 addresses in London for afternoon tea. Whether you prefer classic, contemporary or quirky, we have something for everyone.

Afternoon Tea

The Ultimate Afternoon Tea in London

Looking for the best afternoon tea in London?

Check out our list of the best 5 addresses in London for afternoon tea, from classic to quirky.

The Ritz

The Ritz is the epitome of luxury and elegance, and its afternoon tea is no exception.

Served in the stunning Palm Court, with live piano music and fine china, the Ritz afternoon tea is a treat for all the senses. You can enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam, and an assortment of pastries and cakes. You can also choose from 18 types of loose leaf tea, or opt for champagne if you are feeling festive.

The Ritz afternoon tea is so popular that you need to book at least 12 weeks in advance, so plan ahead if you want to experience this iconic institution.

Pan Pacific Hotel

The afternoon tea at the Pan Pacific Hotel is famous for its unique blend of Asian and British flavors.

The Orchid Lounge, where the afternoon tea is served, offers a seasonal collection with a Singaporean twist that is not found anywhere else in London. The menu includes bao, dim sum, and choux that are inspired by Singaporean cuisine, as well as classic British scones and cakes. The afternoon tea is accompanied by the finest teas from the Rare Tea Company and introduced to guests by a dedicated tea connoisseur, as well as champagnes and world-renowned English sparkling wines.

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason is a historic department store that has been selling fine food and tea since 1707.

Its afternoon tea is served in the elegant Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, which was opened by the Queen in 2012. You can choose from four different menus, ranging from the classic afternoon tea to the savoury high tea. You can also sample over 80 types of tea from around the world, or indulge in a glass of champagne. The highlight of the Fortnum & Mason afternoon tea is the cake carriage, which allows you to choose from a variety of delicious cakes that are freshly baked every day.


Claridge’s is another legendary hotel that has been serving afternoon tea since 1860.

Its afternoon tea is served in the glamorous Foyer & Reading Room, with art deco design and chandeliers. You can enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, warm scones with Marco Polo jelly and Cornish clotted cream, and pastries inspired by the seasons. You can also choose from over 40 types of tea, or add some sparkle with champagne or gin.

Claridge’s afternoon tea is renowned for its impeccable service and attention to detail, making it a truly memorable experience.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Sanderson

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland, then you will love the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Sanderson.

This whimsical and playful afternoon tea is served in the courtyard garden of this boutique hotel, with themed decorations and crockery. You can enjoy a range of savoury and sweet delights, such as smoked salmon Scotch eggs, Queen of Hearts jam tarts, and “Drink Me” potions. You can also choose from a variety of teas, such as Alice’s exotic fruits or Mad Hatter’s green tea.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Sanderson is a fun and imaginative way to celebrate your un-birthday.

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