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How To Throw The Ultimate Afternoon Tea Party

The History Of High Tea

Afternoon Tea has been a British tradition dating back to the 19th century when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, came up with the idea after suffering from the dreaded afternoon slump. At the time, typically only two main meals were eaten in the day, making afternoon the perfect time for a snack and a spot of tea!

The Duchess eventually turned afternoon tea into a social event, inviting friends and family to join her for a sip and a bite. Other socialites quickly noticed the trend and began throwing their own tea parties, and eventually, afternoon tea accompanied by cakes, scones, and sandwiches, became the new fashionable thing to do.

The actual term “high tea” came to be as the working class would enjoy a mid-afternoon meal, standing up or sitting on tall stools. In contrast, the upper class would enjoy “low tea” or “afternoon tea,” with the name primarily deriving from the height of the tables at which the meals were served.

All these years later, afternoon tea is still a very high-fashion and classy affair, and although it may not be as common as it once was, it is every bit as fabulous. Nowadays, “afternoon tea” and “high tea” are typically regarded as one and the same, and you’ll find high-end hotels and restaurants partaking in this British tradition worldwide. While there are plenty of options to dine out to enjoy an afternoon tea, we’re here to teach you how to throw the ultimate afternoon tea party at home!

What to Serve

Although there aren’t any specific rules when it comes to the food or drinks that you choose to serve, individual portions are a must!

That said, traditional tea parties always include some mixture of delicious tea, sandwiches, scones, and cakes.

Now how you choose to honor the traditional fare is up to you, but according to the Duchess, crusts on sandwiches was an absolute no, and she opted to serve cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese, chicken, ham, and egg sandwiches, just to name a few. So if you’re looking for inspiration, look to the Duchess first! Additionally, if you’ll be serving scones, we recommend fruit scones with flavors that will complement the teas, and having jam and clotted cream available. Finally, no tea party is complete without cake! Small cupcakes, cake slices, or petit fours are all wonderful choices. Make a tea-based cake, like Matcha Pound Cake, for a festive and delightful option that your guests will be raving about.

And last but certainly not least, the most important part of any tea party is the tea! Make sure that you’re serving the highest-quality, most delicious tea to make it honor this British tradition. Ensure that you have a variety of offerings so that you can cater to your guests and their unique preferences. The Art of Tea Classic Collection is a great place to start if you’re looking for tried and true crowd-pleasers. Additionally, teabags, like our eco teabag sachets, are typically the easiest as everyone can prepare their own cups depending on their tastes and preferences. That said, if you’re using loose leaf tea, take advantage of our biodegradable filter bags to create single-serve portions for all of your guests. You'll also want to provide sweeteners, lemon slices, creamers, milk, and other add-ins for your guests to add to the teas if they wish.

Another tip is to provide alternative drinks, such as iced tea, champagne, or coffee so that you have a robust offering. You could also prepare some tea-infused cocktails for a modern twist!

How to Decorate

The most important part of your setup will be the three-tiered stand. This will serve as your centerpiece and also where most of the action will be happening. It will house your light bites, and we recommend having the tea, teabags, milk, sugar, and lemons surrounding the stand.

Additionally, take time to ensure that your table is laid out with clean linens and your most beautiful cutlery, plates, glasses, and bowls. Small dishware and utensils are preferred for afternoon tea, but certainly not a requirement. And of course, you’ll need teacups, saucers, and spoons for all of your guests.

We also recommend incorporating plenty of flowers around the room and on the table in order to make it a truly classy and elegant affair.

What to Wear

Looking the part at a tea party is half of the fun! Set the dress code to semi-formal and encourage your guests to wear bright colors, florals, and airy fabrics.

For an added flair, consider recommending your guests to wear fascinator hats, wrist-gloves, and feathered headpieces. Whether you are planning this high tea event for fun, a bridal shower, birthday event or anything else, everyone will love the added touch of embracing themselves in the tradition.


Throwing a high tea event is trendy, fun, and easy to do with Art of Tea! We hope all of our tips and tricks help you throw the ultimate afternoon tea party.

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