Ever since I become a part of the Daughters of American Revolution I have learned to have an appreciation drinking tea. Why you ask? The ladies of my local chapters are relatively big Tea drinkers. The first chapter meeting I helped style was a Valentines Tea. Everything turned out so cute. So much so, that the ladies of the chapter nominated my sister and I to be chairs of our 40th Anniversary. Naturally, we decided to do a beautiful Afternoon Tea ceremony at the St. Regis here in town. If you enjoy dressing up and visiting with friends over light bites and drinks, I promise you will love tea time! Today I am having my sister over to my home and thought it would be fun to share some ” Tips for Tea Time”.
What’s the orgin of afternoon tea?
Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock (don’t we all?!?) in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner.
What time does Afternoon tea start?
This depends on where you are in the world. Traditional afternoon tea starts at 4pm in the EU and is meant to hold you over until dinner 8/9pm. Here in the States, we tend to eat earlier, so tea times here is anywhere from 2:00/3:00pm.
What is the dress code for afternoon tea?
Ladies, this is where you can have some fun and dress up! Sundresses/Maxi dress, Cocktail Chic attire is appropriate. Also, if you are planning a more formal tea, might I suggest wearing derby hats. If you’re the host, notify your guest in the invitations so they can plan ahead.
What should I serve?
A good afternoon tea always includes a variety of teas and small dishes. My go to tea menu includes tea sandwiches – (pimento cheese and cucumber sandwiches), pastries (scones), and dessert like a petit fours. Make it easy on yourself and put everything on a tiered tray. For this casual event, I picked up everything from Central Market.
How to set the table?
This is the time to break out your pretty China! Have fun with this – I love to mix-match everything! From the plates to the flatware. Be creative! Also, add some pretty florals. Today I did an assortment of Garden Roses in my flower box by Tassels. Above is a graphic that helps you with setting your table but glassware and silverware can change based on what you decide to serve. For example, I served champagne so we only had out coupe glasses.
Fun fact- Most people think of a “Royal Tea” as the Queen must be dining however, etiquette states, ‘Royal Tea’ is used to signify the addition of a glass of champagne to a traditional Afternoon Tea. Cheers to “Royal Teas” my friends!
Cream or Jam First?
First off, if your not familiar with afternoon tea then let me explain. This is the second course, typically a scone with cream, butter and jam. This course helps prepare the pallet for the third course. There is an ongoing debate on cream before jam and vice versa but it all boils down to a matter of preference. The Devon (Devonshire) insist cream first then jam. While the Cornish believe to spread jam first then slather with clotted cream. Bottom line- Do whatever brings you JOY! Go for it!
How should I eat my Scones?
Just as any bread served at the table, break small pieces off then add butter and jam and enjoy!
Absolutely not. A misconception of Afternoon Tea tradition (aka HUGE faux pas).
Milk or Tea First?
This is another wildly debated topic among tea connoisseurs. Popularity however rules that, If you put the tea in first then you allow the guest to flavour their own tea to their personal preference. They can adjust the amount of milk and sugar once the tea is poured.
Also, I like to serve dessert truffles on the table in a small crystal bowl. My go to brand is Lindt . I’m currently obsessed with their Valentines edition- Strawberries and Cream White Chocolate Truffle, so decadent, oh My!
Where can I get devonshire/clotted cream?
If you are in the Houston area, Bristish Isles, in rice village offers speciality British food and candies. I have also seen clotted cream at World Market.
Can I go somewhere to have afternoon tea?
Yes! A lot of hotels will host weekly afternoon teas. On the weekends some of them will even have special cocktails like mimosa etc.. Below is a link to some of my favorite spots for afternoon tea in Houston:
Hotel Granduca Houston
St. Regis Houston
I encourage you to start your journey with loving teas! A tea party doesn’t have to be elaborate. Make it simple and just have fun! I hope these tips and practicing helped.As always, I have found some beautiful pieces below that are great basics to start your tea time journey!
Until next time,
*Thank you to our research sources, afternoon tea uk*