If you’re one of those people who love to snack in between lunch and dinner times, why not amp it up by having an afternoon tea session at your very own home? It does not have to be as stuffy as you might think it is. It is simple, easy, and fun – and the perfect remedy for any cravings and mid-afternoon slump.
By following these tips, you might even do it more than once – or even make a habit out of it!
An afternoon tea session is another way of self-love because it is about indulging in good food and drinks and being in the moment either by yourself or with friends and family. If the royals of Europe loved having their afternoon tea, why shouldn’t you?
Choosing the right tea
As the name suggests, the star of an afternoon tea is the tea. Today, there are loads of selections readily available in most supermarkets and specialty tea stores. Here are some teas from around the world to consider that can make the perfect accompaniment to your tea snacks:
- Earl Grey – A citrusy flavored black tea that goes well with sweets such as scones, cakes, and shortbread cookies.
- Assam – A black tea that hails from Assam, India, this particular tea is enjoyed with milk and sugar but can stand on its own and is best served with savory food such as finger sandwiches or quiche.
- Ceylon – Comes in many varieties: white, green, oolong, and black, but the black variant is the most popular choice for afternoon teas.
- Darjeeling – Another black tea from India, this tea has two varieties: floral or fruity. Both varieties work well with savory snacks, but the fruity variety can also be paired with sweets.
- Chamomile – A caffeine-free tea that has a floral and apple-like flavor, which goes well with fruity pastries.
- Mint – Spearmint and peppermint teas are herbal teas, so they’re caffeine-free. Both teas work well with a range of sandwiches, fruits, and vanilla-flavored sweets.
- Rose Congou – A black tea with rose petals that makes the whole afternoon tea experience inherently romantic. Pair this with creamy sweets topped with berries or savory-sweet sandwiches.
- Lavender – This floral tea is popular for afternoon teas for a more relaxing experience. The sweet and perfumy flavor of this tea is ideal for sweets and those with cream.
How to brew
After choosing which tea to serve for your tea party, you will need to know how to prepare it. Will you be serving the tea cold or hot? If you choose to serve it cold, here is how you can do it correctly.
Cold brewing teas bring out the smooth and refreshing qualities of the tea without the bitterness normally associated with the drink.
- Using loose-leaf tea or whole tea bags, place them inside a pitcher, fill with cold or room temperature water, and allow the tea to be infused for 6 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
- Strain or remove the tea bags before serving.
- Another option for serving cold brew tea is to use a French press. Simply press down the filter before serving and pouring it into your cups.
For hot teas, note that not all varieties can be brewed in boiling water as different teas require different temperatures to brew properly and for their flavors to release.
- Boil water in an electric kettle. Unlike stovetop kettles, an electric one boils water quicker and is safer to use because you do not have to deal with hot surfaces or open flames.
- After the water boils, pour it into the teapot until you fill it halfway. Then swirl the pot and throw out the water. This step warms up the teapot, ensuring that the water temperature doesn’t drop.
- Place the tea inside and add the rest of the hot water. Cover and let the tea steep until it is finally ready to be served. If you used loose leaf tea, rather than tea bags, strain the leaves with a tea strainer.
Do not leave tea leaves sitting in the water after the steeping time because it can make the tea bitter. Depending on the tea you used, you can serve it with sugar or honey, lemon wedges, or milk.
Picking out the perfect snacks
Choosing the snacks for your afternoon tea session depends on the type of tea. As a general rule, you should include tea sandwiches as part of your menu. A good addition to your tea party would be soup and salad. And to balance off all of the savory items, serve sweet pastries such as cakes and cookies. All of these items can be made ahead or ordered in advance for a more convenient and yummy experience.
- Finger sandwiches – Traditional favorites include smoked salmon and. classic cucumber. To make it more contemporary, add the choice of egg, tuna, or chicken salad sandwiches, or ham and cheese. Cut the sandwich into small, uniform bites and remove the crusts.
- Scones – Scones are a traditional English menu item for afternoon teas. Sweet scones are usually served with Devon cream and fruit jams, but you can also use whipped or clotted cream if you do not have Devon cream. Meanwhile, savory scones are served with butter or cream cheese.
- Pastries – With pastries, you can go all ham on this one: brownies, miniature cakes, fruit or fruit jam tarts, meringues, French macarons, madeleines, and cookies. These will give your afternoon tea session some sweet ending.
Setting the table
A beautifully laid tea table can set the mood for the quintessential afternoon tea party. For a no-frills party, use a mix of teacups and plates. If you have a collection of differently designed plates, cups, silverware, and glasses that you do not know when or where to use, now is the perfect time to do so for a chic and vintage look! No worries about washing the dishes when you have a dishwasher at home.
- Just don’t forget to get yourself a three-tiered caddy: this is important as this is where you will be placing all of your delicious spread. Place the scones on the top tier, the sandwiches and other savory treats in the middle, and the sweets and pastries on the bottom tier.
- Use an attractive table cloth as the base of your tea party. Place the plates, teacups, saucers, utensils, glasses, and napkins as you would. Add a small bowl for used tea bags and lemon slices for every placement.
- At the center of the table, place the caddy, serving dishes of the salads and other food items, sugar bowl, creamer, lemon slices, and jam for easy access and passing around. Enhance the experience with complimentary music to match the atmosphere.
On the day of your tea party – whether it’s just you or with friends and family – don’t forget to relax and enjoy everything. Enjoy the conversations with your guests or the music you’re playing. Indulge in the sumptuous food and, of course, savor the different notes and flavors of the tea.
Mykie Concepcion is a marketing professional from Smeg Philippines, an Italian kitchen appliance brand. In her free time, she enjoys channeling her creativity through writing about home and lifestyle.