How to Style an Afternoon Tea

Although tea was founded by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, when a leaf fell into the cup of water he prepared, Afternoon Tea was later cultivated as a British tradition, in which we still enjoy the elegant ritual today. 

In light of history: In the 14th century, tea was an essential goods export in China. In the late 16th century, the Dutch brought tea to Europe after establishing the Dutch East India Company. Then it became a popular drink for the Portuguese. Later, the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza married King Charles II of England, introducing tea to England. 

The ritual of Afternoon Tea began in 1840 by the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell. She needed something to fill the hunger gap between lunch and dinner. Tea to the rescue! Afternoon Tea was accompanied by close friends, decorative tables, and small treats. 

Tea was high-priced during this time, so it was considered a high-class commodity. Fast forward almost 200 years, and Afternoon Tea is a delight anyone and everyone can partake in. Afternoon Tea is more than a comforting cup of tea; it’s an experience. It can be as simple or fancy as you wish.

We partnered up with our favorite local chocolate shop, Pollinator Chocolate, for another fun collaboration, this time for a Mother's Day High Tea. We met to do a test run, gather photos, and sample the absolutely delicious menu they have planned to go along with our tea. We walked away truly inspired to share the experience of an Afternoon Tea, so we've compiled a guide on how to curate your very own Afternoon Tea. 

Mother and daughter enjoying afternoon tea

How to set up and plan:

When you are planning your Afternoon Tea event, here are some things to keep in mind to set the stage for your attendees.

  1. Choose your tea: We of course recommend Two Leaves and a Bud. Sachets or loose leaf tea will work just fine, however, keep in mind you will need a loose leaf tea infuser if you choose that option. We also love our tea totes for ease. You will want to have a saucer to rest either the sachet on or the loose leaf infuser, leaving no distractions in the cup other than a lovely cup of tea. 
  2. Cups / Mugs / Teapots: You may have an adorable variety of tea mugs in your cupboards already, though, if you are looking to jazz up your table, we love to look at local thrift shops for an appealing set of tea ware and mugs. You can always utilize the internet to surf options that suit your interest. A teapot may be desirable, as if you want to have one on each table filled with hot water, it will be necessary to have multiple. Another option is not having a teapot and having a kettle that you can keep refilling as needed. 
  3. Tea timers: Hour glass tea timers are engaging for your company, as it gives them a hands on approach to bringing their cup of tea to life. Most teas will have a recommended steep time, so they will keep an eye on their hourglass to know when to pull the sachet or the loose leaf infuser out of the cup to enjoy. 
  4. Choose your menu: Curate a menu of finger sandwiches, chocolates and cakes. In addition, you may need to purchase cake stands if you don’t have any plates to serve the food on. Here is an example of a menu from Pollinator Chocolate. We sampled the menu, and can confirm each of these items are an absolute hit!
Assorted afternoon tea sandwiches and desserts on cake tray with tea

Gluten Free Bread with Smoked Salmon and Dill Cream Cheese

Gluten Free Crostini with Prosciutto, Brie and Balsamic Fig Jam

Pinwheel with Thyme Ricotta, Roasted Tomato and Pesto 

Crostini with Prosciutto, Brie and Balsamic Fig Jam and flowers on cake tray

London Fog Shortbread

Gluten Free Chocolate Cookie Crust with Chocolate Cream and 3 sauces: vanilla anglaise, cherry compote, and caramel

Vanilla Bean Raspberry Cake

Assorted sandwiches and desserts on cake tray

      5. Table Cloths: A solid color works best, as it showcases the flowers and sweet and savory snacks nicely.

     6. Flowers: Every party needs a petal patrol. Support your local florist, pluck from your own garden, or find a nearby grocery store to make your tables pretty and colorful. If you have several different tables, having a variety or a different vase of flowers at each table makes for a medley of color.

Flowers with tea kettle in background

 How to serve: 

Your tea party awaits! Here are some ways to keep the production of your Afternoon Tea party rolling swiftly: 

  1. Have hot water on each table. Whether that be in a teapot, or if the “server” will come by and pour into everyone's cup from a kettle, hot water needs to be ready at all times. 
  2. Make the tea selection visible to all guests. You can utilize a Two Leaves Classic Bamboo Tea Chest to serve sachets, or you may have a menu where your guests can select their ideal tea(s) from. Depending on the duration of your event, we suggest allowing your guests to choose two different teas. 
  3. Food is our common ground; a universal experience. Have your delectable options set out on an appealing plate of choice to give your guests an idea of what their tummy will be filled with. A menu on the table at each seat allows for the guest to pick a tea that may align with their finger food choosing. 
  4. Creamer, sugar, and lemon slices should be available to all guests. These items can live in the center of the table. 
  5. A boozy option can be offered to guests. A little bubbly is certainly suitable for an Afternoon Tea. 
  6. Take photos for memories sake and capture the elegance of your event you created for your guests. 
Three women and one girl enjoying afternoon tea

We wish you the upmost success in curating your own Afternoon Tea! We would love to see how your events go! Tag us on Instagram with hashtag #twoleavesafternoontea :) 

Woman with flower in hair and plate of desserts

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