How to put on a special afternoon high tea + recipes

By Monica van de Weerd

Put your hands pinky fingers up if you’re planning a special afternoon for a loved one soon, but you’re unsure how to celebrate them. If your pinky is currently raised, you’re in the right place.

While having a high tea at a hotel sounds like a beautiful way to honour your loved one, let’s be honest: the food’s usually pretty bland, it can cost an arm and a leg, and you only have a limited number of hours to celebrate. So, rather than heading to a hotel or tearoom, why not transform your kitchen into a high tea palace? Hosting a high tea is a classy and nostalgic way to celebrate your favourite person or friends.

Before you start sending out invitations via dove, boiling the kettle and polishing your soon to be sparkling silverware, follow these simple steps to craft an afternoon fit for a royal friend or member of your family.

Give yourself time to prepare

If there’s one thing you take from this blog, let it be this: it’s absolutely essential to give yourself ample time to plan for the day. If you’re looking at this list on the day of your tea party, it’s already too late (I’m kidding… kind of). Giving yourself time to set up your space, buy what you need, and plan your food will pay off in the final presentation and help you feel a lot calmer on the big day.

Flower time

If your high tea is taking place indoors, bring the beauty of nature inside with a floral arrangement. You may choose to have a big bouquet in the middle or scatter a selection of fresh flowers across your beautiful table or even just go for a small bunch of natives.  I love these pastel pink and white blooms.

Choose the right area

Where’s the best place to host an afternoon tea party, you ask?

It depends on the situation. A garden setting is ideal if the weather allows, but a kitchen or dining area will work if it’s a bit on the hot or cold side.

Dress your area to impress!

Now that you’ve chosen the area, it’s time to dress it up. Whether you’re using an outdoor or indoor dining table, coffee table or kitchen bench, it will be the focus area of the afternoon, so make sure you give it the attention it deserves. Selecting the right cloth or fabric is essential. For a high tea, I recommend using a tablecloth that’s a little plain or just a bare wooden table, to spotlight your crockery and, of course, the tea and food.

Pick your centrepiece

Add some flair to your table by picking the perfect centrepiece. I love a tiered cake stand that captures attention and houses delicious treats and homemade goodies.   

Invest in tableware pieces

Once you’ve chosen your centrepiece, think about the other elegant pieces on your table: plates, a teapot, teacups, saucers, cutlery sets, placemats and napkins. Soft pastel colours and floral patterns lend themselves to the sophistication of a high tea. To turn the elegance of your tea party up a notch, investing in beautiful matching plates with similar designs is oh so worth it.

Put the ‘tea’ in ‘tea party’

Who could forget about the tea?

Not me, ever.

Fill a charming teapot with your favourite tea. My preference is sticky chai tea, here is my own best ever chai recipe but you may choose to use earl grey, mint or chamomile. Bring out classy teacups and matching saucers to really impress your guests.

Set the tone of the day with tunes

Nothing creates a vibe more than a playlist of curated songs. What background music are you going to set the day to? For a vintage high tea, opt for soft jazz, or if you’re going for a royal and traditional tea party, classical music will make for the ideal accompaniment.

What about the food?

Now that you’ve set out your table and created the ambience you’re after, it’s time to think about what food you’ll serve.

The classic: scones

You cannot, and I mean, cannot, host a tea party without the classic, most British tea party food in the world: scones. These delicious baked goods maketh a high tea. These scones are jolly good fun to make and are ready in a jiffy. Enjoy these scones plain, with a bit of butter or add a wee bit of jam. Scones are forever a crowd pleaser.

The must-have: finger sandwiches

No high tea is complete without finger sandwiches. Luckily for us high tea party throwers, they’re the most minimal effort yet high reward foods you can make.

There are endless options of fillings for your finger sandwiches.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Cucumber with cream cheese
  • Smoked salmon
  • Smashed avocado
  • Tuna salad
  • Curried egg dip
  • Lettuce, sundried tomato, roasted eggplant and fetta

To avoid sad and soggy sandwich-itis, make your fillings in the morning, and assemble your sandwiches just before guests arrive. Say goodbye to soggy sandwiches for good!

Why not go the extra mile and make a loaf of green, gluten-free bread?

The treats: cakes, cookies and pastries

Between you and me, the delicious, sweet treats are the best part of a high tea.

There’s a reason the ol’ French macaron is a go-to for high-tea; they look impressive, fit perfectly on a cake stand, and are downright delicious.

If you want to put an Aussie twist on your tea, why not bake spectacularly spongey and chocolatey homemade lamingtons? These lamingtons always go down a treat.

I also love this healthy Coconut banana bread you can enjoy a slice of this luscious loaf, with an open and conscious mind, and every mouthful will bless your tastebuds.

There’s something about lime tarts that makes everyone who tries them happy. These tarts are so delicious that your party guests won’t believe they’re raw, dairy-free, refined-sugar free and gluten-free when they gobble them all up. Make these lime tarts mini-sized and enjoy one by yourself – take that, dessert stealers everywhere.

Simple and elegant

When putting on a high tea, the two words to consider are simple and elegant. Now, go on then; you’re ready to make a special afternoon high tea.

Source: Lee Holmes. Supercharged Food

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