How to make the perfect afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is a British culinary tradition that has made somewhat of a comeback in recent years. Dating back to the 1800s, the initial afternoon is thought to originate back to the Duchess of Bedford, who enjoyed a cup of tea and light snack to cheer her up each afternoon. Gradually, she invited friends to join her and the tradition caught on in other social circles.

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Now it is estimated in a report by the BBC that a whopping 160 million cups of tea are drunk per day in Britain and that the popularity of afternoon tea as a social occasion is linked to the British fascination with period dramas. In any case, the tradition can be easily replicated in your own home, garden or catering business. But what components do you need to create the perfect afternoon tea?


Traditionally presented as finger sandwiches, a savoury first course is an essential part of any afternoon tea and usually served on the top tier of the traditional cake stand. Popular sandwich fillings for such an occasion include egg and cress, fish (such as salmon and tuna) often served with cucumber and meaty fillings such as sliced ham or beef, usually with a sauce like mustard. Canapés and sausage rolls can also be served as part of the savoury selection.

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Of course, a good afternoon tea should include copious amounts of tea, served in proper china from a teapot. Coffee is also a popular beverage, and some establishments will even serve prosecco or champagne with their platters. The food and drinks can be served on lap trays, such as those from, side plates or even directly from the cake stand.

Tarts, Cakes and Scones

Once the sandwiches have been consumed, it’s usually time to move on to the second tier, which incorporates the sweeter items such as cakes and scones. Sometimes a merger between sweet and savoury helps to create balance, so you might see a mixture of items like cheese scones alongside cream scones and jam. Chocolate cake, Victoria sponge, Battenberg and egg custard are also popular choices. More modern establishments may include treats such as muffins, flapjack and rocky road on their platters.

Whatever your take on afternoon tea, include at least some of these components and your guests will be happy.

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