The Step By Step Guide to Putting on a Traditional British Afternoon Tea

Every country around the world has its culinary traditions, and Britain has one that’s typically British: afternoon tea. Although other countries have their versions of tea (or coffee) and sweet treats, afternoon tea is something of a special affair. Visitors to the country flock to restaurants, cafes and hotels to indulge in an afternoon tea, and residents love it too. Once upon a time, afternoon tea might have been more popular to have at home, but now it’s more of a treat on a day out. You can get it at all kinds of places, from famous London hotels like Claridge’s and The Savoy, to tiny Cornish tea rooms. It can come with many different things, but the staples are scones, with cream and jam, finger sandwiches and of course plenty of tea. If you’d like to try hosting your own afternoon tea, make sure you have these essentials.

Setting the Table

If you’re going to have a posh afternoon tea, you should set the table, so it’s beautifully presented. Start off with some nice table linen, and then get a nice set of teacups and saucers. Everyone will need plates for their food, plus knives for spreading scones and forks for eating cakes. Don’t forget teaspoons for stirring! You can get a beautiful cake stand to display your scones, sandwiches and desserts.


Traditionally, afternoon tea is served with pots of black tea, with optional milk and sugar. But it’s becoming increasingly popular to have your meal (because it is a meal) with champagne or prosecco. There are also many places where you can choose to have a coffee instead, or even juice and other soft drinks if you have children with you. Most places serving afternoon tea will have a range of teas to choose from, from black teas to fruit and herbal tea. You can have as many options as you want, but it’s easier to stick to one or two. Make sure you make the tea to the specifications on the packet or box. It’s important to get the temperature right for different types of tea. It’s easiest to serve in teapots, perhaps with a tea cozy to keep it warm. And if you want, you can have the option of prosecco, champagne or wine as well.


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Scones and Cakes

It’s not afternoon tea without scones. Scones are a kind of biscuit-y cake, which are quite difficult to describe if you’ve never had one! They’re very easy to make, with just butter, sugar and self-raising flour (or plain flour with a raising agent). Serve them with pots of clotted cream and jam on the side. Cut them in half and spread both jam and cream onto each half. When it comes to cakes and desserts, you can let your imagination go wild. Some of the traditional cakes you might find include Victoria sponge, French fancies and jam tarts.


Afternoon tea isn’t all about stuffing yourself with cake. Usually, it comes with sandwiches too. If you want to use traditional fillings, try cucumber sandwiches, beef and horseradish or salmon. Cut your sandwiches into triangles or fingers for a bite-sized meal.

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