Hosting an Afternoon Tea

November 12, 2021

With the holidays nearly upon us, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget to slow down and breathe. As a confirmed Anglophile, there’s nothing I like more than sharing an afternoon tea with friends and family. There’s something special about taking time out of our busy schedules to relax, catch up, and enjoy delicious bites of food.

While many hotels and restaurants offer beautiful teas, hosting a tea at home can also be a lovely experience. I’ve hosted teas for birthdays and bridal showers, but some of the best ones have been the “just-because” get-togethers to celebrate friends and friendships.

Setting the scene

Find a special place to hold your tea whether it’s in your dining room, living room, or garden. Wherever you select, be sure it’s comfortable for your guests. Set the table with beautiful dishes (they don’t have to match), a flower arrangement or two, and make sure there is plenty of space for food (that’s the other reason we’re here, right?)

Planning your menu

In addition to a selection of teas, a typical afternoon tea will have sandwiches, scones, and sweets. Just because you’re hosting, it doesn’t mean you have to prepare everything yourself. Find simple recipes you can make ahead (see suggestions below) and then supplement with items from a local bakery or deli.


Afternoon teas start with something savory, usually in the form of finger sandwiches that can be eaten in one or two bites. These sandwiches can be made the night before and, if stored properly, will not dry out or get soggy.

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches
An herby butter is the perfect partner for the smoked salmon.

Turkey Tea Sandwiches
Leaves of fresh basil are the unexpected surprise and perfect complement to the smoked turkey.

Black Forest Ham and Gruyère Tea Sandwiches
The simplest sandwiches are often times the best.

Scones & Jam

Scones are best served warm from the oven. Serve with whipped butter, clotted cream (if you can find it), and pots of jam. Here are a couple of options for homemade jam but store-bought is just fine.

Simple Sweet Scones
Just as the name implies, this is a simple, classic scone recipe – a perfect vehicle for butter, cream, or jam.

Jars of apricot jam

Apricot Jam
This is one of the simplest jams to make and doesn’t require water-bath processing if you keep it in the refrigerator.

Papaya Ginger Jam

Papaya Ginger Jam
This is the tropical version of the apricot jam recipe and gets a little extra kick from both fresh and ground ginger.


A sweet ending is a must whether in the form of a cake or small pastries. I often purchase items from a local bakery but if I bake sweets myself, I keep it simple.

These little cakes are not too sweet and have a lovely, buttery, texture.

Mom’s Lemon Bars
These lemon bars are lightly tangy and refreshing with a buttery shortbread crust.

Fig & Almond Cake

You can easily replace the figs for whatever fruits are in season – plums, apricots, pears – in this simple, delicious cake.

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