A very British tradition, afternoon tea is the height of refined sophistication, but it’s a pursuit which is very rarely held at home. We at IDEAL think this is a real shame, as hospitality and hosting burns bright in the hearts of our national consciousness.
Sure, taking afternoon tea in one of London’s many hotels is great; who doesn’t like being waited on hand and foot, after all? But as it can often reach over a hundred pounds per head, it’s not sustainable as a frequent hobby. Time to throw your own, we think. We’ve teamed up with Simon Bradley, Head Chef at De Vere Cotswold Water Park – a stunning hotel situated amongst the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and surrounded by 152 lakes – to share our 7 IDEAL tips for throwing the perfect afternoon tea party.
THE PERFECT BLEND
Without doubt the most important element of an afternoon tea is the tea itself. A traditional English Breakfast blend is a firm favourite with guests at De Vere Cotswold Water Park however, you could tempt your guests with something a little more unusual such as a power green tea, for the ultimate teatox, filled with antioxidants and nutrients. Or for the more daring, try a chilli chai tea for that fiery kick. On warmer days, try brewing an iced tea using your favourite tea and add slices of citrus fruits for a refreshing twist.
Sandwiches and scones are the backbone of a classic afternoon tea, however, you may choose to serve something a little different to cater to everyone’s taste and dietary requirements.
Try experimenting with the fillings in your sandwiches and the flavours of your cakes, for example, you could serve Earl Grey-infused tea cakes, sweet scones with lemon curd, savoury scones with cheddar cheese and chorizo or basil macarons.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Although you may be excited to serve your latest flavoursome concoction, make sure that you keep some of those classic ‘crowd pleasers’ on the menu, namely; egg mayonnaise sandwiches; cucumber with cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches; macarons; Battenberg; and éclairs.
Make sure everyone in the group is catered for, and provide more savoury foods such as scotch eggs, quiche and sausage rolls, accompanied with drinks for the non-tea drinkers such as a superfood smoothie for the ultimate health kick.
Dietary requirements now play a huge part in people’s lives with nearly ¼ of the UK now eating a plant-based diet. Include items on your cake stand such as vegan macarons or cakes and brownies that have been made with avocado as the substitute.
It’s hard work being the host and the chef, especially if help is limited, so keep things simple to ensure a stress-free day by preparing as much as you can before your guests arrive.
It’s true that nothing beats a warm scone with lashings of fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream, but you can bake them in advance and then warm them in the oven before serving.
PROVIDE A GROWN-UP TREAT
Champagne afternoon teas are all the rage in fancy hotels, so serve up a glass of something bubbly alongside your afternoon tea. English sparkling wine provides the perfect alternative to complement your afternoon tea. Pair your afternoon tea with local sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs from Cotswold vineyard Woodchester Valley, an elegant English sparkling wine with aromas of baked apple, citrus and biscuit. For an added twist, why not serve your favourite tipple with a splash of elderflower or raspberry liqueur.
SET THE SCENE
Afternoon tea isn’t just about delicious sandwiches and cakes, it’s about the whole dining experience, utilising everything from décor to vintage crockery and everything in between. Rummage in the back of your cupboards and dust off your best cake stands, finest china tea set and polish your silver teapot.
Why not also head to the garden and pick some fresh flowers for a centrepiece, place tea cosies on the table, hang bunting around the room and perhaps create your own personalised menus to wow your guests?
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Make the most of the British summertime and take your tea outside. For the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, explore the great outdoors and bring your afternoon tea with you on a picnic. Or dine al fresco with an afternoon tea set up in your garden so you’re never too far away from your next fresh pot of tea.