Going out for a tasty afternoon tea in a cute little tea room or glamorous hotel is one of my favourite pastimes. But most places charge at least £20 each (or in excess of £30 each in London!), so it can add up to be a slightly expensive experience.
However I am a big fan of throwing my own afternoon tea parties at home. Any excuse for a tea party and I’m on it; baby shower, birthday celebration, a girlie catch up with friends… anything that calls for cake! There are so many benefits to throwing your own afternoon tea party too. It means that you can pick all your favourite foods (I always hate it when there’s egg sandwiches on the menu!) and also stick to a budget. Plus, it’s an excuse to get out all of your finest china and tableware if you’re a crazy vintage crockery hoarder like me!
Here are a few of my top tips on how to host your own vintage style afternoon tea party…
You’ll need to set the scene with a beautiful table filled with treats. Dust off your best crockery and tea cups and set the table using your finest silverware. These don’t have to be particularly fancy, or even matching. I use mismatched floral vintage china that I’ve picked up over the years from charity shops and car boot sales. Personally I love the mismatched look!
If you’re crockery is a little bit plain, you can prettify it by adding pretty paper doilies and floral napkins, or perhaps buy a patterned table cloth to brighten the table up a little. Cake stands are also perfect for tea parties! Use a tiered one to display your desserts or a single tiered stand to put the cake on.
You might also want to add a few decorations around the room. A vase of fresh flowers is a nice simple idea, or you could also put up a string of pretty bunting! If you’re celebrating something special, you could get a few balloons too, or even try making tissue paper pom-poms to hang from the ceiling!
You could also try a themed tea party and match your decor to your menu! I recently held a Tropical Tea Party for a few of my friends and instead of sandwiches and cakes on pretty china we had chicken fajitas and nachos on fruity paper plates! For decorations we all wore Hawaiian floral neck garlands, plus I had flamingo bunting and matching watermelon napkins!
Next up is menu planning. If you’re hosting a traditional afternoon tea party, then it’s usually sandwiches, scones, cake, and tea. I’d suggest keeping the sandwiches simple; I usually go for cheese, ham, and cream cheese and cucumber. But you can be as adventurous as you like or maybe ask your guests what their favourite sandwiches are beforehand! Just remember you’re going to have to make them in the morning before everyone arrives, and you don’t want to have them sitting out for too long getting dry if you make them too early! I then cut my sandwiches into small triangles and lay them out on a sandwich tray in the centre of the table.
We then move onto scones and cake! I prefer sultana scones but some people might prefer plain scones, so it might be a good idea to get both. To go with the scones I put some cream and strawberry jam into little dishes and pop them on the table. Cream for scones needs to be quite thick, so I whip mine up using a whisk and a little bit of icing sugar about an hour before everyone arrives.
For the cakes and treats, I usually offer a selection of goodies including a large cake to slice up, plus a few little sweet nibbles such as Party Ring biscuits, angel cake slices, or mini chocolate éclairs. You could really push the boat out and bake your own cakes if you’d prefer! I tend to buy a simple cake from the supermarket and then ice or decorate it myself. Even if it’s just a chocolate cake, I will then add some chocolate buttons or smarties to it to make it look home-made!
For drinks, get a pretty tea pot and some china teacups and serve tea the old fashioned way. You can have milk and sugar in a little milk jug and sugar bowl on the table and people can help themselves. I’m not a fan of tea myself, so I always have a cold drink available too. I generally opt for fresh orange juice which I pour into a glass Kilner bottle or I put some pink lemonade in a nice pitcher jug. To make the lemonade pink, I simply use some cloudy lemonade and add a drop of pink food colouring, then add some lemon slices, raspberries and ice.
If you fancy a boozier affair, you could always offer cocktails or have a champagne afternoon tea! I can recommend pink gin with lemonade garnished with raspberries and strawberries… a sure –fire hit!
Afternoon tea is so relaxed so it’s easy to enjoy it without too much stress and preparation. Plus, no cooking required! As an alternative to a traditional afternoon tea, you could perhaps try a cheese and wine tasting party instead, with lots of different cheeses, crusty bread, cold meats, chutneys, crackers and wine. I think that might be my next tea party gathering actually!
I hope you find my tips on how to host your own vintage style afternoon tea party useful!