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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

The Great British Tradition...of Afternoon Tea!

Posted: May 8, 2007
by: Robert Jackson

Here in the UK, summer has come early……very early indeed! We are basking in gloriously long, sunny days with temperatures WAY above average. And with this balmy weather come the pleasures and the joy of eating outdoors. Something of a treat for those of us living in “unpredictable” climates which is why we can’t wait to enjoy a lunch on the terrace, picnic in the countryside or afternoon tea in the garden……..gentile English life, at its very best!Tea_party

Last Sunday, I played host to a dozen or so guests for a most idyllic, lazy afternoon tea – it was quite delightful! And the beauty of hosting an afternoon tea party is that not only is it EASY, but even as the host, you actually get time to enjoy it yourself! But as will all parties, the key to success is down to sound planning. Let me share a few tips with you:

1. Do not invite more guests than you can comfortably cope with. I would personally never attempt to cater an afternoon tea for more than say a dozen guests unless I had some assistance.
2. If you are catering for more than say 50 guests, consider either hiring professional caterers or possibly a personal chef.
3. Good timing is critical for the perfect afternoon tea party. Do as much preparation ahead of time as possible but don't be tempted to make the sandwiches more than an hour before serving.
4. Ensure that you have a plentiful supply of boiling water - hire in an electric tea urn if necessary.
5. Ensure that you have adequate stocks of good quality china, serving platters, tea pots, cutlery, furniture and tablecloths. Hire additional stock if necessary.
6. If you are planning an outdoor garden event, always be prepared for a change in weather.
7. If time and kitchen space are in short supply, don't be afraid to buy in a selection of fine quality cakes and pastries from you favourite bakery or online supplier.

As for the food, keep it simple and keep it fresh. A traditional afternoon tea menu should comprise a good and varied selection of dainty, bite-size sandwiches (crusts removed), a choice of cakes and pastries (preferably home made), freshly bakes scones with jam and whipped cream, and ofcourse, an endless supply of properly made tea. Here are my top 10 tips for making a really good cup of tea:

1. Firstly, choose your tea/s. You really do not need more than 2 or perhaps 3 varieties and it’s wise to stick with the popular choices such as Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Assam or Lapsang Souchong.
2. For a tea party, I would always choose to use leaf tea rather than teabags……but that is very much a matter of personal choice.
3. Use a ceramic teapot in preference to metal as the latter can adversely affect the taste of the tea.
4. Bring a kettle of fresh cold water almost to the boil. Pour a little of the water into the teapot to warm it, and then discard the water.
5. Now add the tea to the pot - 1 teaspoon per cup, plus 1 extra spoon "for the pot".
6. Pour the near boiling water over the leaves and replace the teapot lid. Leave the tea to brew for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how strong you like it.
7. Pour the tea through a tea strainer into a teacup which is sitting on a saucer. Don't overfill the cup.
8. Offer fresh milk or lemon, and sugar cubes for sweetener.
9. If the tea becomes too strong, you can dilute it with more near boiling water.
10. Empty the teapot after about 15 minutes otherwise the tea will become "stewed".

Finally, I would like to share with you a recipe for my all-time favourite afternoon tea cake……..a classic Victoria Sponge Sandwich. If time permits, for a perfect result, bake the sponge on the same day that you intend to serve it and fill it just at the last moment. Pure heaven!


Serves 8 to 12

knob of butter, melted
8oz/225g butter, softened
8oz/225g caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs
8oz/225g self-raising flour, sifted (you may need a bit extra)
For the filling:
6 tbsp good-quality strawberry jam
280ml/10 fl oz heavy/double cream, lightly whipped

To serve:
icing sugar, for dusting

For this sponge cake recipe, you'll need two 15cm-17.5cm/6in-7in cake tins


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Gently heat the knob of butter in a pan and brush two 6in-7in/15cm-17.5cm cake tins with the melted butter. Line the bottom of the two cake tins with a circle of greaseproof paper.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, using an electric whisk or a wooden spoon. Beat well to get lots of air into the mixture (this should take a couple of minutes).
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add a tablespoon of flour if the mixture curdles.
5. Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon. Be careful not to over-mix it.
6. Pour the mixture equally between the two cake tins and level off the top with a spatula. Make a slight dip in the centre with the tip of the spatula if you don't want them to be pointed in the middle.
7. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently with a finger and are pale golden in colour.
8. Remove from the oven and take them out of the tins after about 5-10 minutes
9. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely (for about half an hour).
10. Spread the sponge with the jam and the whipped cream, then carefully sandwich together.
11. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Click on this link for more great afternoon tea ideas plus etiquette tips and recipes.

Robert Jackson

Gourmet Food Revolution

Your Comments

i like www.teacuppa.com lapsang souchung or keemun black tea! great with cakes and scones

Posted by: Ginna at May 9, 2007 5:25:31 AM