Afternoon tea is a very stylish affair these days. Choose a theme to turn the occasion into a dramatic event.
The traditional teapot and other accessories
While finger sandwiches and little cakes are undeniably the main draw of a tea party, the point of the whole shebang is of course the tea. Make sure you offer guests really good tea. For this you’ll need a traditional teapot, a strainer and some proper cups and saucers – definitely not mugs! The key is in the quality – look for loose leaved tea in the classic Earl Grey, but make sure you have alternative options for those who aren’t really into tea. Think herbal and fruit teas in exotic flavours. If the party is a celebratory event, some champagne is in order, as long as you serve it in good champagne flutes!
The traditional teapot theme with Alice in Wonderland
An ideal theme is a ‘mad hatter’s tea party’. Invite your guests to ‘tumble down the rabbit hole’ on invitations styled as playing cards, and set your scene with the teapot and cups, then accessorise with little bottles labelled ‘drink me’, and add some ‘eat me’ tags to little cakes displayed on a classic cake tier.
How far you go to create a surreal atmosphere is up to you – you can hide riddles in napkins, set up bunting and decorations picturing kings and queens, carousels, birdcages and zebras, and you can set up a ticking clock in the corner. You can even hide a fluffy dormouse in a teapot! There’s so much material to choose from with Alice in Wonderland that it’s really easy to build the theme into something quite spectacular.
Try afternoon tea with a Japanese theme. You’ll need to buy a few inexpensive accessories – bamboo mats,chopsticks, paper lanterns and perhaps a pretty kimono! – and focus on the ritual of the tea itself, using a fragrant selection of leaves. Arrange the seating as cushions on the floor around a low table, and offer a selection of exotic finger food.
This elegant vintage theme should be accompanied by period dress. It requires the most elegant serveware, a selection of cocktails and a dramatic chandelier over the table. If you really want to entertain, hire a butler to welcome your guests.
Souk and spices
Mint tea is the drink of choice in Morocco, served in coloured glasses and accompanied by sweet and spicy Arabic delicacies such as Maghreb pastries. Patterned carpet on the floor, twinkling candles, a fragrant hookah, leather slippers and colourful serving ware set the scene.