I love a spontaneous gathering of two or three friends over a cup of herbal tea and some yummy cucumber sandwiches. But with the popularity of afternoon tea, many tea rooms and restaurants require reservations weeks in advance, making spontaneity difficult.
Afternoon tea is traditionally enjoyed between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. The British tradition of serving tea with milk and sugar has been set aside and now plain, flavored tea, coffee, or iced tea is perfectly acceptable. The crusts are cut off of soft bread slices to make small sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber and butter, or egg salad and watercress. English scones are served with butter, clotted cream and strawberry jam. The light meal is finished with sweet cakes, tarts, petit fours, and other pastries.
When served in a hotel or cafe, this afternoon treat is sometimes called High Tea, which gives a more elegant meaning to the simple meal.
However, High Tea really refers to a light meal served between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., often taking the place of a supper. Included on the menu would be cold sliced meats, sandwiches, and cakes.
About.com's Entertaining Guide, Donna Pilato, has some recipes and menus, tips on brewing and serving a proper cup of tea, and some fun afternoon tea traditions. She has a wonderful article on Hosting a Tea Party.
Each person's tea table will be set in a different way, reflecting the occasion and the style of dishes you own. Use your own china and serving pieces as inspiration.
- If you have plain colored china without any decoration, you can choose either plain colored or patterned napkins and tablecloths. Your colors can be delicate and feminine or bold and contemporary.
- If you have patterned china, you'll want to choose colors that compliment your china. The pattern of the dishes will set the tone for the setting. If the china is very floral, your linens will probably need to be plain colors. If the china has a geometric pattern, you might be able to find linens that compliment the pattern.
Our tea tables draw their color schemes and centerpieces from the dishes themselves. One of the patterns is classic blue and white, one is a very floral antique English china, and the third is a contemporary cheery yellow fruited and floral pattern.
Once you've seen our tea tables, get out your own dishes and see what you can put together. Then invite some friends over, brew a pot of tea, and enjoy the afternoon.
See a tea table set with classic blue and white china.
Use colorful new china for our Lemon Tea Table.
Take out your best china for a special occasion tea party.