A sophisticated afternoon tea is a fun and easy way to entertain guests. I love high tea, I love hosting high tea and going for high tea. My hen’s celebration was high tea at the Palazzo Versace, my mother-in-law, Stephanie, took me for high tea at Sheraton Mirage one year for my birthday, and my husband even took me for high tea at Harrods for my birthday when we were in London.
This is mum and me enjoying high tea with Stephanie (mother-in-law) and Tash – they were on the other side of the table taking this photo.
Last weekend my beautiful Grandma (Nanny Jean) celebrated her 91st birthday (here she is at our wedding), and mum had a brilliant idea to host a high tea to celebrate. I love baking and preparing for high tea, so of course I told mum I’d do some baking and bring along some delicious treats.
Traditionally high tea is seen as a ‘stuffy affair’, but these days both elegance and fun are synonymous with such an event. While the art of hosting a high tea properly doesn’t need to be restrictive to ‘high tea etiquette’, it does however require careful planning. Here’s some tips I follow when I am hosting a high tea.
High tea is all about finger food (just my liking). High tea is usually presented on a three tier stand and there is specific protocol around what to put on each tier of the stand.
Top tier – Scones
The protocol of placing scones on the top tier dates back to the 1800s. This is when high tea first became popular and the conveniences of kitchens did not exist. As a result a warming dome used to be placed over the scones – and of course the dome would only fit on the top tier.
Middle tier – Savories and tea sandwiches
Bottom tier – Sweets
At the progression of each ‘course’ of high tea service is usually provided to remove each of the tiers, which means you are left with sweet treats to finish off with. Although this is the traditional layout of food on a tiered stand, I have been to a number of events where the food was not presented in this order.
Here’s an example of what I did when I hosted high tea recently.
Top tier – biscotti and monte carlos; middle tier – fresh scones; bottom tier – vegetable frittata and fresh smoked salmon vol au vents.
Setting the tea table
It’s a good idea to set the table using plain white linen or a pretty lace table cloth, this ensures the food and cute tea pots are the main feature. High tea is the perfect opportunity to bring all of your tea pots out of the cupboard that have been hidden away.
It’s nice to have a range of different teas available for your guests to try. I like to go to a specialized tea shop and buy the flavoured loose teas and have them in containers for my guests to use as they wish.
Prepare a couple of hot beverage jugs, with tea and coffee. It’s also nice to have a jug of iced water with lime wedges and mint.
It depends how you want to set up your event and the amount of space you have available, but it’s often nice to have a tea and coffee station. This area is easy to decorate with fresh flowers in a simple vase, then you can replicate the same flowers and have them as a centre piece on your table. You might also find some cute serviettes to match with the colour scheme.
So I’ve decided to go about my food presentation following the traditional protocol on each tier of the stand. Because I am only organising a single platter for the event, I’ve decided to bake fresh scones with jam and cream, tea sandwiches – chicken, pesto, lettuce and mayonnaise on one, and egg, mayonnaise and lettuce on the other. Then on the bottom tier a selection of sweet treats. I am ashamed to admit that I cheated with the slices, I was rather busy on the morning of the high tea so I resorted to visiting the local bakery for the slices. Here’s how it turned out.
It was a lovely event and my Grandma thoroughly enjoyed the food and company.
It’s inspired me to host another high tea soon, I just need to find the right occasion.