Timeless Tips for Hosting Afternoon Tea

Whether it’s a special occasion or a simple gathering of good friends, who can resist an invitation to afternoon tea?

A time-honored ritual, steeped in tradition and an air of elegance, people around the world have gathered for afternoon tea since the mid-nineteenth century.

As the story goes, the Duchess of Bedford originally established the practice, within societal circles, of pairing the popular beverage with light fare to ward off hunger pangs in the hours between meals. Soon afterward, The Langham Hotel in London became the first establishment to serve afternoon tea to guests and continues to be known for its lavish tea settings to this day.

When hosting your own afternoon tea, you may choose to make it a formal affair or a casual get-together.  As long as you follow timeless tips, your guests will enjoy the party.

  • Allow the china and service, venue, decor, and attire to set the tone for your afternoon tea.  Be sure to set clear expectations for your guests on the invitation.
  • Venue possibilities are endless: a formal garden, your back patio, a boutique hotel, or your living room are all appropriate settings.
  • Serve proper tea. After all, tea is the main character so this isn’t the place to skimp. Brew high quality loose leaf tea. Since you’re carrying on an English tradition, offer cream and sugar.
  • Serve finger food. Remember, afternoon tea is intended to be served between meals. Dainty treats such as cucumber sandwiches, scones with Devonshire or clotted cream, and assorted pastries make a perfect spread.
  • There’s no need to serve an array of cocktails, but let the champagne flow!
  • Study proper tea party etiquette. Depending on your personal style and your guest list, following strict etiquette may or may not be important. But if you’re going to be the host of a tea party, you should at least know the rules you might be breaking. (kind of like grammar)

Hosting a tea party is a fun and relatively simple way to entertain friends.  Afternoon tea can be the theme for baby showers, bridal showers, birthdays, book club gatherings, or networking events.  But why not just get together with girlfriends for a relaxing afternoon tea for no particular reason?

Thank you, Duchess of Bedford.

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