The Best Afternoon Tea Ideas

8 min read

If the idea of strict dress codes, raised pinkies, hefty price tags and white tablecloths you daren’t spill anything on gives you the shudders, here’s our best afternoon tea ideas for hosting your very own tea party at home. Whether it’s indoors, outside in your garden or in a lovely, local picnic spot, we’ll help you to plan an afternoon tea your friends or family won’t forget anytime soon.

Afternoon Tea Ideas at Home

So, you’ve decided to host your very own afternoon tea party - great! But, where do you start? Well, first you need to figure out your guestlist. Depending on who you’re inviting will likely dictate a lot of the planning involved. For instance, do your guests have any dietary requirements? There’s no point arranging a chicken wing themed afternoon tea party (yes, they exist!) only to find out that one of your friends has just turned vegan. It’ll also be a total waste of your painstaking planning time if you end up with enough food to feed 10 people, only for it to turn out that 7 of them can’t make it that day.

Knowing who can attend will also help you create any customised items like name cards and other cute table place settings or party favours. So, get those invites sent out nice and early. Depending on the theme of your afternoon tea, you might want to tailor the design of your invitation to tie in with the rest of your party. And on that note, every great afternoon tea party needs a theme. Here are some of our favourite themed afternoon tea ideas: 

white neon sign reading 'tea people' with arrow pointing down and left on black background

Themed Afternoon Tea Ideas

Sex and the City themed afternoon tea

Think NYC-inspired mini-foods like waldorf salad sandwiches, salted beef with pickles, smoked salmon bagels, mini New York hot dogs drizzled with mustard and bite-size burgers. For the sweet stuff: sumptuous, Samantha-style red velvet cupcakes, Carrie-inspired macarons and indulgent American brownies. For drinks, the obvious choice is alcoholic or non-alcoholic Cosmopolitan cocktails served up chilled in martini glasses.

Travel themed afternoon tea

Pick your favourite country - or continent - and dish up some regional delicacies. There’s no limits when it comes to what you put on your three-tiered cake stand, so think traditional Spanish tapas; contemporary, brightly-glazed French croissants; or perhaps some decadent Italian desserts. For a real taste of travel, combine with boarding pass invitations, polaroid cameras for snapping some holiday-style photos and even mini suitcase party favours (honestly - they’re a thing!)

Street food themed afternoon tea

If your guests are more into festivals than finger food, why not try a street food inspired afternoon tea party? If you need some inspiration, head to your favourite music fest’s website, who’ll usually have plenty of info on their food vendors to whet your appetite. Our suggestions: pre-prepare some slow-cooked meat to pack into mini brioche sliders, dish up some festival-favourite Churros dunked in chocolate and try your hand at some mini top-your-own pizzas.

Asian themed afternoon tea

Bao buns have surged in popularity recently, so grab yourself a steamer and find out what all the fuss is about (if you haven’t already). There're so many bao bun recipes to choose from: slow braised pork belly, tender chicken thigh, crispy confit pork, marinated salmon, hoisin halloumi or spicy shiitake - to name a few. Complete your Asian-inspired afternoon tea with tangy sweet chilli jam served on Japanese milk buns with hefty helpings of clotted cream and vanilla chai or fresh green tea to wash it all down with.

British afternoon tea

Of course, this wouldn’t be the best afternoon tea ideas if we weren’t to mention the quintessential British tea party. If your afternoon tea is taking place during the summer months, team yours with tealights in jam jars, pretty napkins, bunting and picnic blankets; before serving up mini trifles, strawberries and cream, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches and - of course - scones with strawberry jam and a dollop of Dorset clotted cream. A spot of after-tea croquet is advised for burning off the aforementioned clotted cream.

If you're hosting a more wintery afternoon tea party, switch your homemade lemonade and refreshing earl grey iced tea for spicy, warming chais and creamy gingerbread lattes. And pick denser dessert options like brownies or boozy rum-filled russian cakes. (Lifting your little finger while sipping tea, totally optional!)

Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea

Not a far cry from the British afternoon tea, but with extra sparkle, an Alice in Wonderland theme party will require some forward planning to truly take your guests down the rabbit hole. Fill mini clear cork-topped vials with an array of infused teas, tied with “Drink Me” labels and decorate your cake stand whimsical finishing touches like hanging cardboard clock medallions and pop-up toadstools.

Search ‘mad hatter tea party decorations’ on Etsy, if you’re not a dab hand at crafts. These Alice-inspired mini cake dome stands are also perfect for housing your colourful macarons. Include quirky 'Wrong way', 'That Way', 'This Way' signs to your party for when your guests turn up - but make sure to get your invites out on time, so no one can be late for such a very important date.

Afternoon tea on three-tiered cake stand with teapot and champagne

Afternoon Tea Decorations Ideas

Once you’ve chosen the theme of your afternoon tea party, the planning should come a little more easily. You’ll want to consider:
  • The menu
  • Place settings
  • Investing in a three-tiered cake stand
  • Table and decorative settings
  • Soft furnishings
  • Teaware
  • A picnic basket and accessories (if you’re hosting your afternoon tea party outdoors)

When it comes to decorative settings - and depending on your theme - you’ll probably want to consider sprucing up your table with some fresh flowers, pretty green foliage and candles. If hosting indoors during the colder months, consider soft furnishings like squishy cushions and cosy blankets. And if you’re taking your afternoon tea party outside, drape some paper lanterns and fairy lights wherever you can hang them and position garden party signs (Alice in Wonderland style) for directing your guests. For afternoon tea parties that are further afield, check out our guide to the top Northumberland destinations and picnic spots.

For presenting your food in the prettiest way possible, here are some ideas:

  • Customisable cupcake toppers
  • Edible flowers (you can find them online as well as at local farmers’ markets and some supermarkets)
  • Food picks (to prevent messy fingers)
  • Cake fountain candles for creating a show-stopping centerpiece
  • Glass-effect canape plates, dishes and cubes can be a lovely way to show off your wonderful food contents
  • Dish up your desserts or savoury appetisers in shot glasses - from carrot cake to apricot panna cotta or even a deconstructed cucumber tea sandwich (don’t judge us til you’ve tried it!) the only limit is your imagination…
  • Presenting your pre-party nibbles on clear canape spoons will be worthy of an Instagrammable afternoon tea table
  • Pop cupcakes and other patisseries in clear boxes to keep them moist, while providing the ultimate wow-factor

For creating the perfect tea party atmosphere, pre-prepare a background music playlist and bring your theme to life.

Make sure to have all the relevant cutlery in place: plates (paper ones, depending on how big your dishwasher is!), soup bowls, silverware and glasses, a tea cup for each guest and enough teapots and strainers for the amount of teas you’re providing. Condiments like honey for enhancing green or white teas are a nice touch, as well as additional milk, sugar, salt and pepper shakers.

Place settings on wooden table with green foliage and personalised honey pots

Tea Pairing for the Best Afternoon Tea

Did you know that tea pairing is a thing? Well, it absolutely is. And getting the wrong tea and food combo could prove a little problematic for your afternoon tea party.

So, here’s a little guide to the perfect food and tea combinations when planning the best afternoon tea: 

  • Combine robust, black teas with rich food and hearty, meat-based dishes
  • Green teas work perfectly with salad, fruit and veggie concoctions - as well as subtle seafood, fish or chicken courses
  • Gentle white teas should be combined with light appetisers like cucumber salad or a subtly-flavoured seafood recipes. It’s also lovely for drinking by itself between courses for a refreshing interlude
  • Fruity black teas work wonderfully with sweet desserts to make them taste even more indulgent
  • You can get both light and dark oolong teas, so these can be paired with a range of herby dishes, fruity desserts and smoky cheeses and meats (depending on which one you go with)
  • For your traditional British afternoon tea party, a buttery, crumbly scone balances out a rich cup of chai perfectly. But you can also combine your chai tea with any baked goods, chocolatey courses or bread products
  • Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea are lovely with any lemon flavouring dessert
  • Pair Darjeeling with creamy patisseries like éclairs and indulgent puddings like trifle
  • Enhance anything from carrot cake to strong cheeses and salmon with a full-bodied Assam

close-up of a hand dunking a herbal tea bag into a glass of tea 

Afternoon Tea Food Ideas

The theme, table settings and room decorations are all well and good. But if you don’t make a good impression with your food, it’d be fair to assume that your afternoon tea party won’t be getting repeated any time soon…

So, whether you’re opting for quirky savouries, show-stopping desserts or just some simple light bites, here are our afternoon tea food ideas to make sure your tea party leaves your guests with smiling faces and satisfied tummies.

Savoury Afternoon Tea Ideas

From substantial savoury sarnies to light vegetarian bites and traditional crowd-pleasers, afternoon tea sandwich options are endless and can be made to be as adventurous as your theme allows.

Here are a selection of our favourite afternoon tea sandwich ideas: 

  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Chicken, watercress-egg or tuna salad
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese tea sandwich on pumpernickel bread
  • Pâte and cured meats
  • Seafood tea sandwiches
  • Prosciutto, asparagus and Boursin
  • Honey-roasted ham and cheese
  • Turkey and apple
  • A petite BLT
  • Roasted veggies - such as bell peppers and red onions - with mozzarella
  • Apple and nut butter
  • Bite-sized avocado toast
  • Goats cheese and walnut
  • Cucumber and prawn

close-up of sandwich on white plate with pink flowers behind

Afternoon Tea Scone ideas

Whether you’re partial to a savoury cheese scone, consider yourself a conventional clotted cream and strawberry jam kinda scone-eater, or fancy something a little out of the ordinary for your afternoon tea party, here are a few ideas for what you can dish up. Get them before they’re scone (sorry, we couldn’t resist!):
  • Griddled scones topped with creamy honey and butter
  • Rosemary and olive drop scones with goat’s cheese
  • Buttermilk scones with potted fish or homemade mackerel pâte
  • Classic scones with jam and clotted cream
  • Cherry scones
  • Cheddar scones
  • Cheese and marmite
  • Dill scones with smoked salmon and cucumber relish
  • Eton mess scones
  • Cheese and chutney
  • Lemon drizzle scones
  • Coronation chicken
  • Raspberry and coconut
  • Cheese and bacon
  • Pimm’s scones
  • Vegan scones
  • Chorizo and manchego (perfect for your tapas-themed afternoon tea!)
  • Gluten-free scones
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Walnut and roquefort

close-up of scones and a tub of clotted cream with silver spoon sticking out

Afternoon Tea Cake Ideas

Cake. Let’s face it, probably the main reason why your friends and family can’t wait for your afternoon tea party - unless you’re going for a street food, festival themed event, of course!

So, it’s important to get the sweet stuff right. Here are some of our favourite afternoon tea cake ideas, from the light and fluffy to the downright dense and gooey.

  • Strawberry and cream sandwich sponge
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Raspberry and white chocolate layer cake
  • Italian-style bakewell tart
  • Soaked pistachio and citrus cake
  • Chai spiced carrot cake
  • Pineapple and coconut cake
  • Lightly-spiced and sticky, toffee apple upside-down cake
  • Dark chocolate and cherry tart
  • Double-choc brownies
  • Banbury cakes
  • Salted caramel brownies
  • Shortcake, goat’s curd and marmalade
  • Cherry brownies
  • Lemon and rosemary cake
  • Double ginger cake
  • Coffee and walnut cake
  • Apple, almond and cardamom cupcakes
  • Vanilla fudge cupcakes
  • Victoria sponge
  • Jammy coconut sponge

close-up of cupcake with strawberry on top and gold fork with rows of cupcakes behind

Afternoon Tea Deliveries

If you’re the best party planner and the perfect host, but don’t have the time or willpower to create your own afternoon tea spread from scratch, why not order a selection of homemade cakes and savouries online to create your own bespoke menu. Or - even better - get your very own Grant’s afternoon tea delivered to your door. We also offer a vegetarian afternoon tea option as well as our lovingly made vegan sausage rolls.

Our online afternoon tea includes a combination of our handmade specialties, such as our raspberry and white chocolate flapjack and unbelievably tasty ham and egg pie. With proper portion sizes and only the best ingredients, we guarantee your afternoon tea will go down a storm.

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