How to create the perfect afternoon tea

Sandwiches, cake and impeccable manners. What’s not to love about afternoon tea? But how do you do it right? Read on to find out…

Afternoon tea – quintessentially English  

Afternoon tea is quintessentially English – something deeply embedded in our history and our culture. When you ask an American what reminds them of England, they may well say ‘afternoon tea’ along with the royal family and red phone boxes.


The history of afternoon tea – a bored, hungry duchess

But where did it all begin?  With the rumbling tummy of a jaded duchess. The Duchess of Bedford complained of feeling low in the afternoon. So she began to have tea and sandwiches. More people were invited over time, sharing gossip as they ate. Women began to dress up for the occasion. And the idea caught on. Afternoon tea was born.

Afternoon tea essentials

You can’t have afternoon tea without tea, cake and sandwiches. Settings, dress codes and other things can change. But these 3 elements are essential.

The tea

Different teas are suited to different foods. So it’s a good idea to have a couple of types of tea.

  • English Breakfast or Earl Grey for the sandwiches
  • Darjeeling, with its champagne-like taste, for the cakes and scones  

Serve your tea from a glass or china pot to maintain its natural taste.

Bags or loose-leaf? It’s up to you. Traditionalists may opt for loose-leaf, but it’s a bit of a faff. Buy good-quality tea bags and it’ll be just as nice.

Embarrassed about your old kettle? Spare your blushes with the Smeg Jug Kettle. With its curvy chrome detailing and 50s pastel colours it’ll complement even the poshest of spreads. Check out the Smeg kettle  

Prefer a coffee? Your soiree will remain elegant (if not totally traditional) with the KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso and its art deco curves. Serve a cappuccino to one person then an espresso to another with the easy-to-use Nespresso pods. Create café vibes with the built-in milk frother. 

 Check out the KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso  

How Top Make The Perfect Afternoon Tea


The sandwiches

Traditional afternoon tea sandwiches are served cut into small, finger-friendly triangles with the crusts off. The bread should be thinly sliced. Popular fillings include:

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Egg mayonnaise and cress
  • Coronation chicken
  • Thinly sliced roast beef with horseradish
  • And of course, cucumber

Choose 2 to 4 different sandwich fillings.

Why not bake your own bread? Wow your guests with sandwiches made with homemade bread. It’s easy with a breadmaker like the Panasonic SD 2500. Make a regular white loaf or speciality breads. Short of time? Bake your bread faster with the rapid bake mode. Check out the Panasonic breadmaker

The cakes

This is your chance to show off your baking skills. Traditional scones are easy to make, and are the centrepiece of any afternoon tea. Combine with a couple of other cakes and patisserie.

  • Scones: You can’t beat scones fresh from the oven. But whether home baked or shop bought, they should be served with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
  • Cakes: Chocolate cookies, shortbread, Bakewell tarts, fondant fancies all make good options.
  • Patisserie: Vanilla custard slices, chocolate éclairs, choux buns, profiteroles – all will go down well.

Baking and food prep – which mixer is right for you?

Putting it all together

Now you’ve got your sarnies, your tea and your cakes you need to lay it all out in a spread. You’ll need:

  • China: Don’t kill the mood by serving your afternoon tea in mugs. China cups, saucers and plates are the order of the day. Be traditional with a matching set, or more shabby-chic with mismatched plates and cups.
  • Teapot: making people’s tea in their cups is not okay. A teapot is essential - a china one will give great results.
  • Tier: The piece de resistance. Assemble your food onto a cake tier and await the gasps as you bring it to the table. Sandwiches go on the bottom, cakes on the top.  

Get some inspiration at Betty’s

Want to see how the pros do it? Betty’s has been doing it for nearly 100 years. Its delectable afternoon teas – served by impeccable staff in its 6 Yorkshire tearooms – are world famous.  


Ready to be the hostess with the most-est? Find small kitchen appliances to help

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