Tea parties (or afternoon tea, whichever you prefer) are one of the most quintessentially British ways to celebrate any occasion - especially something as momentous as the Platinum Jubilee.
Once reserved for the upper classes in the 18th and 19th Centuries, tea parties or afternoon tea became fashionable thanks to the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell. She would regularly host friends and family for tea and a small meal around 4pm, and these gatherings were seen as a true luxury because tea was an expensive imported item.
Nowadays anyone can enjoy a brew at home, making hosting a tea party an accessible and low cost way to celebrate any occasion.
Dedicate a theme to the tea party
If you’re hosting a tea party for a specific occasion then choose a theme to compliment that and then plan your menu and decorations accordingly; for example, if you were to host a tea party to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee then you could choose to make a few of her favourite foods such as Chocolate Biscuit Cake, and serve this using Union Jack napkins. Our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee collection contains the perfect cup and saucer (or mug, if you prefer) to serve your tea in, too.
Setting the scene
This may sound obvious, but make sure the space that you’ll be hosting in is clean and tidy and inviting for your guests! Depending on whether you’re planning on a slightly more formal afternoon tea sat around a table, or a more casual buffet style tea party, you may want to create a seating arrangement to encourage people to get to know each other. Either way, make sure there is plenty of seating - you never know when an unexpected guest is going to turn up.
When it comes to decorating your table, stick with your theme - so if you’re celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee then make a decision as to whether you want to go all out and bright or for a style that’s a bit more subtle and decorate accordingly. Bunting, napkins, coasters, tea towels, even floral arrangements, can all be Jubilee themed. Take a look at our Platinum Jubilee Tea Towels and Platinum Jubilee Coasters, decorated with a motif inspired by the dress that Queen Elizabeth wore during her coronation, featuring flowers from every country in the Commonwealth.
I’d also always recommend using a table cloth, even if your tea party is going to be served from your coffee table. Not only is it handy for the inevitable spills and crumbs, but it also makes your tea party feel like more of an occasion. One of my favourite ways to find unique table cloths is to just buy some fabric by the metre and hem it myself at home.
Have your tea ready to go when your guests arrive, with milk and sugar easily accessible. Don’t forget an abundance of tea spoons to save cross contamination! I’d also recommend having an alternative milk available for those that don’t drink cows milk, such as oat or almond milk.
Make sure to have a few variations of tea too to cater to people’s preferences; Earl Grey, Chai, Peppermint, Green, Decaf, and of course traditional English Breakfast tea.
If your tea party is for a celebration, it also certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few bottles of something bubbly too - or if it’s a warm day, a few pitchers of Pimms!
Make sure you plan plenty of variations to your tea party menu - I would go for three or four different types of sandwiches, and three or four different types of sweet treats. Don’t forget to find out if your guests have any allergies or dietary restrictions before hand!
There are no rules on which sandwiches you should serve at your tea party, whether you want to go for the traditional cucumber, or something a little more adventurous like rose and honey. Here are some ideas for your sandwiches:
- Egg and cress
- Prawn and lemon
- Rose petal and honey
- Chickpea ‘tuna’ mayo
- Goats cheese and spicy red pepper
A must have for any traditional tea party is scones (whichever way you pronounce it!).
They are most enjoyed when freshly baked on the day however if you’ll be pressed for time - or more unlikely, find that you have some left over - then you can freeze and enjoy them on a later date by defrosting on a low heat in the oven.
I love to do a combination of sweet and savoury scones, although I'm sure whichever you decide will go down a treat. Serve your sweet scones with the traditional clotted cream and strawberry jam, and don’t judge people for which they choose to put on their scone first...
Savoury cheese and chive scones would be perfect with butter and creme fraiche, and you could even add some chillies to the dough for a little kick.
Here is a foolproof recipe for your scones:
Classic scones with jam & clotted cream recipe | BBC Good Food
No one will judge you if you choose to buy your biscuits rather than make your own - especially if you’re already making plenty of sandwiches, scones, and cake!
It doesn’t hurt to have a few options available when it comes to biscuits, and you can’t go wrong with the classics like shortbread, gingernuts, chocolate digestives, and of course rich teas. If you fancy a bit of retro flavour then pink wafers or party rings also go down a treat!
When it comes to cakes, I like to do cupcake versions of traditionally bigger cakes. Not only are they usually easier to eat for guests, but they also make it easier for everyone to get a taste of each type of cake.
A Victoria sponge is always a safe bet, as well as a chocolate cake for those with a real sweet tooth. Queen Elizabeth’s favourite cake is a chocolate biscuit cake, which you could easily make small versions of. If you’re feeling particularly confident, you could also try your hand at making fondant fancies (or just buy some…)
Whether you choose to go for a more formal afternoon tea, or a family style buffet tea party, the most important thing is to have fun! Enjoy the food and your company, and celebrate our longest reigning monarch in true style.
Don’t forget to visit our Pinterest for ideas!