A Brief History on The Perfect Afternoon Tea
Introduced to England in the mid 1800s. We have the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell to thank for this wonderful tradition. It was on trend at the time to have a fashionably late dinner, around 8pm, and with this in mind the lovely Anne started having a tray of tea, bread and butter brought up to her between lunch and dinner. She started inviting her friends round and soon they too picked up on this great way to spend an afternoon. Girl time, tea and some awesome cakes.
An afternoon tea is the perfect gift for a loved one and by putting in that extra effort and making your scones and jam from scratch will earn you some major brownie points!
For the quintessential afternoon tea then look no further, we have put together the perfect guide to make sure you don’t put a foot wrong.
The Perfect Afternoon Tea Guide
To make your afternoon tea rival that of The Ritz’s we have compiled a list of exactly what you need to create an afternoon tea that would do our dear Anne proud.
A Charming Tea Set
A beautiful tea set doesn’t have to be expensive. We have found some reasonably priced ones at local supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda. Mismatched tea sets look great and with the large range of tea cups and teapots on offer your can mix and match your favourites. You can also take a look online at eBay or trawl your local charity shops for a bargain vintage find!
A Beautiful Cake Stand
When it comes to displaying your handmade goodies a cake stand is a must! There are a fantastic range of cake stands available, depending on your personal taste you can go with a kitsch floral look or a modern slate one. Multiple tiers allow for you to display your homemade scones and finger sandwiches on different levels.
From the classic English Breakfast to a floral Darjeeling. Fortnum and Mason have a wide range to cover most tea tastes, they really do know a thing of two about tea and offer some advice on their blog. Read up on how to make the perfect brew here where they give answers to some of the hard questions such as, ‘milk or no milk?’ and ‘milk in first or last’?
If you were to purchase a posh afternoon tea usually they give the option of having a glass of champagne instead of tea. Obviously tea and cake is a match made in heaven but adding some bubbles elevates your afternoon tea to a more grown up affair. If you want to be a little kinder on your wallet why not pick up a bottle of prosecco? A similar fizz from Italy, that has a slightly sweeter taste and will go down just as well with your guest.
Now this is an added extra that if you are looking after the pennies isn’t necessary but can really add a little something extra to your afternoon tea. Purchase a bouquet of mixed flowers and distribute these across smaller vases – a great tip is to use old jam or sauce jars – once you’ve given them a clean of course – and dot around the table.
This also works as a lovely little takeaway gift to give friends and family who you are sharing the afternoon tea with.
To give the complete effect of a posh afternoon tea clean white table linen is a must. Again, if you are after afternoon tea on a budget then give this one a miss but to give an added extra touch take a look at some of the reasonably priced table cloths over at Dunelm and Argos.
The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipes
If you’re inspired to give home-baking a go, we have a couple of tried and tested recipes from BBC Good Food below. We have recipes for their perfect scone, plus their easy to follow jam recipe – meaning you can make your own jam from scratch! You’ll be surprised at how easy these are to make – plus they’ll taste better than shop bought!
To get your afternoon tea off to a good start make up a pot of tea or pour yourself some fizz and tuck into some finger sandwiches to get your appetite going.
The Perfect Finger Sandwiches
A recent survey from Afternoontea.co.uk has revealed that the nations favorite sandwich is a smoked salmon and cream tea on granary bread but why restrict yourself to one type? Make a variety so that everyone is happy and give some of the other top 10 afternoon tea sandwich combinations a try:
1. Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese
2. Egg Mayonnaise & Cress
3. Chicken & Mayonnaise
4. Cucumber & Cream Cheese
5. Cheese & Chutney
6. Ham & Mustard
7. Prawn & Mayonnaise
8. Beef & Horseradish
9. Tuna & Mayonnaise
10. Roasted Vegetables & Cream Cheese
The Perfect Scone
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes.
350g self-raising flour, plus dusting
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
85g butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Beaten egg, to glaze
Jam (see below) and clotted cream, to serve
- Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Tip the flour into a large bowl with the salt and baking powder, then mix. Add the butter, then rub in with your fingers until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar.
- Put the milk into a jug and heat in the microwave for about 30 secs until warm, but not hot. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, then set aside for a moment. Put a baking sheet in the oven.
- Make a well in the dry mix, then add the liquid and combine it quickly with a cutlery knife – it will seem pretty wet at first. Scatter some flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Dredge the dough and your hands with a little more flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times until it’s a little smoother. Pat into a round about 4cm deep.
- Take a 5cm cutter (smooth-edged cutters tend to cut more cleanly, giving a better rise) and dip it into some flour. Plunge into the dough, then repeat until you have four scones. By this point you’ll probably need to press what’s left of the dough back into a round to cut out another four. Brush the tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto the hot baking tray.
- Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden on the top. Eat just warm or cold on the day of baking, generously topped with jam and clotted cream. If freezing, freeze once cool. Defrost, then put in a low oven (about 160C/fan140C/gas 3) for a few mins to refresh.
The Perfect Jam
1.8kg small whole strawberries
Juice of 3 lemons
1.84kg jam sugar (not to be confused with preserving sugar)
Knob of butter
- Wash, drain and hull the fruit and put in a large non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle over the lemon juice and sugar, gently mix. Cover with a tea towel and leave overnight. (This helps keep the strawberries whole.)
- Put a saucer in the freezer. Tip the fruit and juice into a preserving pan or a 4.5 litre/8 pint heavy based pan. Heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil until it has.
- Turn up the heat, then boil hard for exactly 4 minutes (use a timer). Take off the heat to test for setting point. Spoon a little jam onto the cold saucer. After a couple of minutes gently push your finger through the jam and if the surface wrinkles it is ready. If not, return to the boil for 2 minutes, then re-test.
- Take off the heat and swirl in the butter. If the scum doesn’t dissolve, skim with a slotted spoon. Cool for 10-15 minutes. (Pot when too hot and all the fruit rises to the top.)
- Stir gently to distribute the fruit, then pour into warm sterilised jars. Put waxed discs on straight away, cover with lids or cellophane circles, then seal, label and wipe the jars. Keeps for 6 months in a cool dry cupboard.