How to Properly Host a British Tea Party: A Concise Guide


Taking part in a classic afternoon tea is an excellent opportunity to unwind from the day’s hectic activities, socialize with old friends, and make some new ones. These small, formal gatherings are perfect for welcoming new neighbors, hosting out-of-town guests, or celebrating a special occasion. To name just a few examples of appropriate celebrations, a tea party can be held in honor of a birthday, housewarming, graduation, retirement, summer garden party, holiday, customer or employee appreciation, bridal shower, or baby shower. They’re reasonably priced even as they can manage to be formally sophisticated.

The Tea Party Invitations

Your invitations to the tea party should be as formal and sophisticated as the gathering itself. You may find a wide selection of invitation cards for sale online.

The best way to send out invites is with a simple card printed on cream or pale-colored paper.

You’re Invited to the Afternoon Tea

A request from Mrs. Mary Holmes

Having you around is a delight.

When having afternoon tea,

6 June, Saturday

At 3 pm


Invitations to a classic afternoon tea can be penned on tea note cards featuring images of cute tea sets, English roses, and other motifs. A stationer can provide you with invitations that are engraved or letter-pressed. Depending on the formality required for the afternoon tea party, a simple email invitation would do the trick these days.

To add flair to the invitation, you could ask guests to dress up, bring their cups and saucer (in case you don’t have enough for everyone), etc.

Preparing a Tea Service

One of the most enjoyable aspects of hosting a tea is arranging the table settings. Here is the time to pull out the tablecloth and use your finest tea set. The formal dining room table is ideal for hosting tea parties. When hosting fewer guests, setting the table for the number of seated diners is appropriate. Serve the tea in a buffet fashion on the dining table for more significant gatherings. Cloths in white and lace are classic and beautiful, but choose a color that fits the party’s motif or the time of year. Christmas calls for red and green, a bridal shower calls for white, and a fall party calls for orange.

For a seated dinner party

Place the cup and saucer (with a teaspoon) on the right side of each place setting and the tiny tea plate or side dish in the center, towards the table’s edge. The spoon and cup handle should be held in the right hand. Since most people are right-handed, they will probably use their right hand to grab the teacup. Below the plate, cup, and saucer, the napkin is folded into a long rectangle and placed next to the plate. The napkin should have a desert fork in the middle. While white or colored paper napkins are excellent, linen napkins in a coordinating or contrasting hue are the most elegant option.

Classy Tea Party Decorations

Fresh flowers can be used to beautify the table. Use your imagination and put your flowers in a teacup or teapot. This is a fantastic method to repurpose a teapot missing its lid. Fabric runners, silver or colored confetti, and elegant matching napkins are all lovely additions to a white tablecloth. Serve the meal on silver platters, vintage china plates, or iron cake stands. You can even have a name tag made for the table settings. All these special touches on the table will make the day unforgettable.

The Art of Making a Perfect Cup of Tea

British custom calls for a hot cup of English Breakfast Tea with a splash of milk. You’ll need a teapot, some filtered water, and a kettle (electric or stovetop). Both tea bags and loose tea can be used. If you want to make a good impression on your guests, go for loose leaf. While organic, high-quality loose-leaf tea is preferred, a well-prepared tea bag of a standard British mix can do in a pinch. Tetley, PG Tips, Twinnings, and Stash are all examples of reliable brands of everyday tea bags.

A Guide to Tea-Making…

Remove any stagnant water from the kettle. Since oxygen is lost during boiling, using fresh water results in the finest flavor. Thanks to the oxygen in the water, tea has a new, revitalizing flavor. Reheated water might leave tea with a bland taste.

Fresh filtered or spring water is ideal for filling the kettle.

Get the water boiling.

When the water in the kettle boils, pour some into a teapot, let it sit for a moment, and then drain and rinse.

One bag or teaspoon of tea per person, plus one more for the pot, should be placed in the tea kettle. So, if you’re making a pop for four people, use five tea bags or teaspoons.

Bring the water in the kettle to a full boil before pouring it over the tea or teabag. Cover with the tea cozy and let steep for up to five minutes, longer if you want your tea stronger. In a white cup, the color of the tea will show up more clearly. It would be best if you had a deep brown shade. It is typical to serve guests who want a weaker brew first, as the first pour will be the lowest after the coffee has brewed for two to three minutes. Tea can be steeped for 2 to 3 minutes for a more potent drink.

You can create a new teapot using a fresh tea bag or teaspoon and more boiling water or refill the old one. The answer to this question is time-dependent. A fresh pot of tea should be made because the tea cosie will keep the pool hot for over an hour, but the tea will have stewed by then.
Use of Loose Tea Leaves

Tea bags are the most convenient option, but loose leaves can improve the taste and experience. Using loose-leaf tea in the pot can be done in a few different ways.

Tea should be made with loose leaves added directly to the pot and strained through a tea strainer before serving. The tea strainer container (saucer or extra teacup) is placed under the strainer to catch any overflow. This is the conventional method of brewing tea in a pot.

Putting loose tea leaves into a teapot. Because they are not large enough to hold enough tea for a whole pot, tea infusers are more suited for use in a single teacup. This approach is suitable for making tea for one or two in a small pool.

Use a Tea Pocket, or a paper tea bag, for loose-leaf tea. You can purchase various goods that feature empty tea bags that can be filled with your preferred tea. Because of this, tidying up is a breeze. You can put as many full bags as needed because each can carry up to four or five teaspoons. If the tea doesn’t have room to brew, the leaves may fall out if the container is too full.
Instructions for Making Tea

The proper way to serve tea…

Whoever is sitting closest to the teapot should pour it. Guests can either have the host or a designated “be a mother” (the person who runs the tea, hence the phrase “shall I be a mother?”) serve them, or they can help themselves. Caution: when using a tea cosey, the tea within the pot will be scalding for a while, and the bank itself will be pretty heavy when complete. Elderly and young guests may require assistance pouring their tea. KEEP IN MIND to keep the teapot lid on while running. Not following this guidance has led to many a spillage and a cracked top.

Put a few drops of milk into the cup’s base. Never use heavy cream; milk (2% or semi-skimmed) is far superior in flavor.

The custom of pouring milk into one’s tea before the tea itself dates back to the Victorian era when exquisite china tea cups first became popular. If you put the milk in first, your beautiful porcelain cup won’t break. This is especially helpful if you don’t drink your tea with sugar because it prevents the tea and milk from separating.

Holding the cover in place, take the tea cossie off the pot, and invert the jar over the cup. If you want to avoid accidents when adding sugar and stirring your tea, leave a little room at the top of the cup.

Sugar can be added to sugar cubes or raw cane sugar to sweeten the drink. Sugar should be added to the cup with the sugar spoon provided, and the tea should be stirred with the teaspoon given in the saucer. Make sure you get the sugar and sweetness to the bottom of the cup by touching the base and stirring it in well.
Foods Usually Served During a Tea Party

Food at a tea party often consists of three courses served on a three-tier cake stand: savory sandwiches, scones with preserves and clotted cream, and delicate pastries.

Finger sandwiches are so named because they are typically made on crustless, soft, doughy bread in the shape of fingers or triangles.

Fillings include egg mayonnaise and cress (egg salad), cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad, and soaked salmon are all examples of standard sandwich fare.

Small, round scones are baked for an English Tea party, and after being cut in half, they are served open-face with clotted cream and jam. Some common varieties include Raisin, blueberry, apple, cinnamon, and chocolate scones. For detailed scone recipes, check out The Little Book of Scones.

Clotted cream is primarily produced in Devon or Cornwall and is imported and sold in a small number of specialty shops and on the internet in the United States. Clotted Cream isn’t a domestic product. The same effect can be achieved using heavy whipping cream. I recommend consulting The Little Book of Scones for more information on suitable creams to accompany scones.

Strawberry jam, conserved raspberry jam, or even lemon curd preserves that pair well with scones. For complete instructions, see The Little Book of Jams, Preserves, Curds, and Chutneys.

Pastries, which can include a variety of cakes, tea bread, and tarts, are the final layer or course and are typically served in bite-sized portions. Food at a tea party should taste good and look pretty.

More Treats for the Tea Party

The usual fare of the fresh fruit tray, Sherry trifle, and Victoria sandwich cake can be supplemented with savory options like Pork Pie, Sausage Rolls, and Savory Spinach Rolls.

A pork pie is a galantine and sage-seasoned pork terrine wrapped in a lard hot water pastry and served cold.

Puff-pastry-encased meat and vegetable fillings like sausage and spinach rolls.

Trifle with sherry, presented in tea cups

Strawberry Conserve with Whipped Cream on a Victoria Sandwich Cake

This short lesson by Tina Jesson, owner of Tina’s Traditional Old English Kitchen, was filmed in the summer of 2012 for Ch8 IndyStyle. Tina goes over the necessary procedures for brewing a cup of tea. There’s also a little tutorial on how to make traditional English Cream Tea. (Cream, jam, and scones)

The writer’s bio: A native of the United Kingdom, Tina Jesson now makes her home in Indiana, USA, where she runs her own Pop-Up Tea Room and Tea Party catering business under the name Tina’s Traditional Old English Kitchen.

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