A Quintessentially British Guide to the Perfect Afternoon Tea

There are a great many stereotypes associated with the Great British public, from a stiff upper lip and a sarcastic approach to life to always having to carry an umbrella, but nothing is more emulated and adored than the afternoon tea.

With this in mind, and for anybody who fancies attempting to hold the ultimate English tea party, here is a quintessentially British guide to the perfect afternoon tea.

Key Components of an Authentic Afternoon Tea

Firstly, it is important to highlight the distinction between a genuine afternoon tea and a poor alternative, the latter of which you can often find in tea shops and cafes, not to mention nearly every garden centre across the country.

The key components of an afternoon tea, with additional items added entirely to your preference, include the following:

  • Light cakes, such as banana bread
  • A variety of different flavoured scones
  • Crustless sandwiches on white and brown bread (smoked salmon is a must!)
  • A variety of different types of tea

It would also be pertinent to point out that, although it is essentially up to you whether you choose loose tea or tea bags, a formal afternoon tea would only ever include loose tea options.

Beautiful China Is Essential

These days, when it comes to fashion and clothing trends, literally anything goes, and colours and patterns that were once considered to be a clashing combination and a fashion faux pas are now celebrated and encouraged.

When planning for the perfect afternoon tea event, following the same mismatched table aesthetic is most certainly the right direction to go, as long as everything is served on or in authentic bone china.

If you are lucky enough to have a wonderfully stocked China cabinet yourself, then now is the time to showcase your collection, but if not, you could either contact friends and family members to source items or head to your nearest charity shop where you are guaranteed to find some China gems!

Afternoon Tea Etiquette

The third most important aspect of a proper, authentically English afternoon tea concerns itself not with the menu or cutlery but the etiquette of the event itself.

Take the time to discover the history of afternoon tea, and you will realise what a formal affair it used to be, and if you are serious about recreating this, you need to focus on how to present yourself and your food.

Traditionally, the host of an afternoon tea party will greet their guests with a firm handshake for the men and a kiss on both cheeks for the women and will take the coats and any baggage from them and remove them from sight.

When seated, napkins should always be used and placed on the lap, yet if you need to leave the table, you should place the napkin on your chair until you return. Additionally, sugar cubes should be placed in the cup before the tea itself, and milk is always added after the tea has been stirred.