How to host the perfect afternoon tea


Do you remember Sunday afternoon tea with family and friends?  Let’s make it popular again by inviting friends and loved ones for tea.  Use your dainty cups and dare to use a teapot!  Polish the children’s manners…

It is a special event, so go the extra mile to spoil your guests and family.  Dust off grandma’s tea set.

Afternoon tea vs High tea

Afternoon tea is not high tea.  And high tea is not afternoon tea.  So, what is the difference?

Afternoon tea is usually served between 15:00 and 17:00 with tea, crustless sandwiches, scones and desserts.

High tea is rather an early supper or dinner usually served at 17:00.  A meat dish will usually be included in the menu.

pink afternoon tea table

Origin of afternoon tea

Afternoon tea was introduced in the 1800’s.  In those days the rich had only two meals a day with dinner served at about 20:00 or 21:00.  As it was a long stretch from breakfast to dinner, the duchess of Bedford decided to invite friends for afternoon tea and snacks to prevent her from fainting from fatigue.

This afternoon tea-idea spread like a wildfire amongst the ladies of leisure and soon it became a popular tradition.

The table setting

Use your imagination and have fun in dressing the table.  An attractive floral tablecloth will lay the foundation of the mood you want to create. Use smaller cotton or linen napkins, delicate spoons and dainty teacups and saucers.

Mix and match your teacups, saucers and plates; use pastel and/or bright colours.  Old and new.

Fresh flowers are a must. It doesn’t have to be an expensive bouquet.  It can simply be a single rose in an antique or vintage milk jug.

Do you have a cake stand?  Now is the time to use it!

Take it outdoors if the weather allows.

Tea cup and flowers

The menu

Keep an afternoon tea menu light and serve it in small portions.

Slightly warm scones with jam and clotted cream, is usually part of an afternoon tea. Scones should be able to break easily in two without having to cut it.

Finger sandwiches is also a must. Have the crusts cut off and serve it in small squares or triangles so it is easy to eat by hand.  Think cucumber sandwiches or be different and do a fresh strawberry sandwich.

Favourite teas for afternoon tea include teas like Earl Grey as well as herbal teas like chamomile and mint.

afternoon tea snacks

Table manners

If the setting is placed at a table, the appropriate manner to drink tea is to lift the teacup, leaving the saucer on the table.  Place the cup back on the saucer between sips. 

Do NOT hold your pinkie finger in the air.  It is seen as being rude.  Rather hold your teacup by having your thumb and index finger meeting the middle of the handle.

First pour the tea and then the milk.  The explanation perfectly makes sense – you cannot see how strong the tea is before you pour it.

Have the milk and sugar ready on the table.

Stir back and forth. Not in a circular motion.  And do not touch te sides.

It's considered rude to look anywhere but into the cup whilst sipping tea.

Slurping is a big no!

Do’s and don’ts

  • Don’t let the teapot go empty. It is a good idea to have more than one. 
  • Finger sandwiches can be eaten with your hands but cake with a cake fork.
  • Dainty cups and saucers – dainty bites.
  • Don’t gulp it all in once – it is not your last meal. Relax and enjoy it.
  • Use your napkin properly. Instead of wiping your mouth forcefully, rather tap your mouth gently with the napkin. 
  • Don’t leave the spoon in the cup. Please place it on the saucer behind the cup.
  • An afternoon tea commands respect even if it is informal. Dress appropriately.


Now that you know the ins and outs of serving tea, and how to behave properly – all that is left, is to relax and have fun with your friends!

Have a cuppa!

Here’s a scone recipe I’ve been using for years


About 10 scones depending on the size

30 minutes to prepare


500ml self raising flour

3ml salt

5ml sugar

70ml butter

125ml milk

60ml water


Pre-heat the oven to 190°C

Mix dry ingredients and rub butter in with your fingers till it looks like breadcrumbs.

Mix milk and water and add to mixture.

When mixing the dry and wet ingredients, try to handle it as little as possible.

Press (not roll) the dough about 15mm thick on a flour covered surface.

Press it with a cookie cutter to the size you prefer. If a cookie cutter is not readily available simply use a small sherry glass.

Place it on a greased baking tray with enough space for each to rise.

Brush the tops slightly with milk

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes till golden brown

Eat warm or cold on the day of baking.

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