How to Throw an Afternoon Tea Party

Enjoying afternoon tea while perched on a gilded hotel armchair is a fine British tradition, but hardly sustainable as a regular pursuit. Throwing your own afternoon tea party means you can stick to your own budget, plus you can select your favourite finger food. We have some suggestions for throwing a soiree in style.

The basic kit:

If you own a tiered cake stand, dust it off and use it as the center piece of your table. Otherwise, use your best crockery and make it a little more special with lace-like doilies, folded napkins and name place signs. If you want to go all out, charity shops are a good source for reasonable floral Chinaware – don’t worry if the patterns are mismatched. Don’t forget your teapot, teacups, cutlery and cake slices for serving.

Setting the scene:

Extend your table and throw on a table cloth – if you don’t have one handy, fabric shops sell cheap spotted, floral and striped material by the metre. String up some bunting or, if you’re feeling ambitious, bake up some edible bunting biscuits. While you’re at it, you could make some place-name cookies and ice them with your guests’ names. Pop them in paper bags so your guests have a little present to take away – or just snaffle them as an entrée.

Arrival drinks:

Make sure the sugar and milk is set on the table ready to pour your guests a cuppa as they sit down. Try to provide a variety of tea – Earl Grey, peppermint, camomile, fruit, herbal and, of course, English Breakfast.


Scones are best eaten on the day and don’t take long to whip up but if you want to get ahead, freeze a batch and defrost them in a low oven. Serve warm with lashings of jam – decant a pot of homemade preserve into a pretty bowl.

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