SocialBee’s top expert tips for organising your own Afternoon Tea party event, either in your own home, or in the workplace
Afternoon Tea is still very much in vogue as a way of gathering friends, family, and indeed work colleagues together to share stories, make memories, and have a healthy dose of laughter along the way.
It is beautiful in it’s simplicity. The core elements remain as timelessly in tact as when it was first introduced in the 7th century to appease the hunger pangs of elegant ladies mid-afternoon.
Teas, of the loose leaf variety are served in teapots, preferably china ones. To accompany the tea, there is a dainty selection of savoury and sweet delights. Crustless finger sandwiches with delicate fillings such as cucumber and parsley, or classic egg and chive mayonnaise adorn the bottom layers. Scones with fruity jam and fresh double cream sit on the middle layer, waiting to be savoured. And sitting on top, like the jewels in the feast, are the delicious bites of sweet delight.
The scene is then set for an afternoon of conversation and conviviality.
There is great fun to be had when organising a Tea Party of your own. It is such a wonderful way to celebrate any number of occasions; from birthdays to baby showers, and christenings to hen parties. It also works wonderfully well for work events where the focus is on staff engagement and interaction.
The pleasure of Afternoon Tea is universal too; young and old, of all genders love it. What’s not to love to be fair? Decadence, delight, dainty treats and plenty of tea.
And in terms of set-up and style, you are only limited by your imagination and your budget.
So here are our top expert tips, from the Beehive with love, on organising your own bee-spoke Afternoon Tea party:
On the china
We love vintage style very much, and so we love to use vintage fine bone china for our Afternoon Tea events. To be fair, there are places where you can rent the fine bone china if you don’t have your own. Although nearly everyone’s granny was given china tea sets as wedding gifts, so it may be worth taking a trip up to the attic for a nose if gran doesn’t mind.
On the tablestyling
Here are some of our knackiest ideas for tablestyling:
- Flowers in teapots
- Butter on a china saucer
- Jam in a china sugar bowl
- Cream in a china milk jug
- Teacup candles
- Teacup and saucer to the top right of the small plate, napkin on plate and knife on napkin.
- Oilcloths are much handier than linen tablecloths. They clean easily and don’t need to be ironed.
On the tea
The loose leaf versus tea bag debate rages on. We are a fan of the loose leaf here at SocialBee. The quality of the tea is far superior, and so the taste and complexity of the tea is better too. Also, the whole process of measuring out the loose leaf into the china teapot, and letting it brew for the optimal amount of minutes, and then pouring, lends a lovely sense of ceremony and occasion to proceedings. We don’t normally take the time to do this every day, so it is lovely to make an effort for your tea party.
On the food
We have tips for each tier. We do recommend serving the food on 2 and 3 tiered cake stands. It’s such a quintessential element of Afternoon Tea.
Sometimes, if we are playing around with the theme and style of the Tea Party, we like to add glass domes, slates and wooden trays too.
- Crusts off – it looks prettier and daintier and isn’t something we do everyday
- Squares, fingers, or triangles – all same shape, or a mixture
- Egg mayo is a firm favourite, regardless of age
- Make them as neat and tidy as you can
- Aim for between 4 and 6 sandwich bites per person
Plain with strawberry and fresh cream and the most traditional. But raspberry scones are delicious too, and for something a bit different, you could try serving cheese and onion scones with butter and tomato relish. We generally serve them small, and one per person.
What you serve here will very much depend on your audience. Without sounding ageist, older folks tend to like things like Barry’s tea brack, bakewell tarts, and all butter shortbread; whereas a group of hens like light and sweet options like raspberry and lemon sponge, red velvet cake pops, macarons.
We like to serve our cakes in bite-sized slices, but you might like to serve your cakes whole, especially if you are baking something like a victoria sponge, which will look very impressive in the middle of the table.
The most important thing to remember:
Remember that the point of any gathering is the people, not the placemats, or the music. Once people are relaxed, and conversation is flowing as freely and warmly as the loose leaf tea, then your tea party is a success.
The beauty of an Afternoon Tea party from the point of view of the hostess, is that once it is all laid out, you are free to mingle with your guests and chat at your ease. Refreshing the teas is the only thing you will need to keep an eye on.