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 to tide her over until dinnertime. 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.
This summer, why not host a lazy afternoon tea in your garden? Soak up the sun (if you’re lucky!), and enjoy a delicious spread with friends. Here’s everything you need to host the perfect afternoon tea this summer:
Afternoon tea essentials
You can’t have afternoon tea without tea, cake and sandwiches. No matter what the weather is like, where you’re holding it and what you’re wearing, these 3 elements are essential.
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.
Looking for a new kettle to complete the vintage look? The Greville Curve Kettle, with its curvy copper detailing and 50s design, will complement even the poshest of spreads.
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.
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 for your guests to mix and match.
Why not bake your own? Wow your guests with sandwiches made with home-baked bread. You won’t have to spend hours kneading with a breadmaker like the Panasonic SD 2500.
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. Serve 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. But beware of melting if it’s a warm day.
Putting it all together
Now you’ve got your sarnies, your tea and your cakes, you need to make your spread look as good as it tastes. Set up a table in the garden, with some shade to stop the sandwiches curling, and lay out a tablecloth. Then you’ll need:
- China: China teacups, saucers and cake plates are a must. Go with mismatched china for a shabby-chic feel
- Teapot: Brewing tea in a mug is not okay – a china teapot is a must and will give great results
- Cake tier: The piece de resistance. Assemble your tasty treats on a cake tier and deliver to the gingham alter. Sandwiches go on the bottom, cakes on the top.
Now all that’s left is to tuck in and debate whether it’s scone as in ‘gone’ or scone as in ‘stone’.
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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