8 Tea Pairings for Afternoon Tea

by Scott Anderson, TeaMinded.com

Afternoon Tea is a chance for you to socialize and relax with friends. It comes with snacks such as sandwiches, chocolate, and other sweets. Of course, it’s no tea party if there’s no tea! Different types of teas with a variety of flavors may be served during an afternoon tea to complement the menu. Whether you are attending an afternoon tea or you are hosting one yourself, this article will tell you about eight teas that pair well with afternoon tea. 

afternoon tea
Photo by Angello Lopez on Unsplash

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea is also known as “low tea.” It’s derived from the low side table from which it was traditionally served. It is often presented on a three-tier tray that contains light bites like finger sandwiches and desserts, and of course, tea.

Origin of Afternoon Tea

It is said that afternoon tea originated in the mid-1800s when the Duchess of Bedford was stressed over having to eat dinner late (8 to 9 pm). Late dinner was popular during her time and the long wait for eating made her feel restless. 

She decided to invite some friends during the afternoon for an afternoon snack and tea. Tea was an expensive commodity at that time that only rich families could afford. 

The custom soon spread out to others in high society and became a popular pastime amongst ladies of the upper crust. Over time, as the price of tea became more reasonable, afternoon tea grew into a British custom widely enjoyed by middle class society.

Types of Afternoon Tea Menus

The uninitiated might think “afternoon tea” is simply an afternoon snack with tea. Actually, you can have different variations of afternoon tea, all of course served with copious cups of tea.

  • Cream Tea – the simplest form of afternoon tea which consists of tea, scones, clotted cream and possibly preserves or lemon curd
  • Strawberry Tea – a cream tea with the added treat of fresh strawberries
  • Light Tea – similar to a cream tea, with one or two added savory or sweet choices
  • Full Afternoon Tea – a complete set of finger sandwiches, scones with condiments, and desserts
pretty teacup and saucer

8 Teas that Pair Well with Afternoon Tea

Before you go to an afternoon tea or organize one, you should know what teas go well with an afternoon tea menu. Choosing the right cup of tea can lead to an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon with friends. 

Hosting Tip: When it comes to brewing tea for a tea party at home, you can use anything as simple as a standard tea pot or kettle, to something as culturally traditional like a cast iron pot. Using cast iron teapots can add more flavor to the tea, especially if they have been passed down from older generations. 

Tea with Dessert: Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey is probably the most known black tea blend in the world. It’s known for its sweet citrusy flavor which comes from the essential oil of bergamot. The sweetness of earl grey tea is best paired with afternoon tea sweets. 

Tea with Fruity Desserts: Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a caffeine-free herbal tea, that is often used to help people get better sleep. It’s popular in afternoon tea parties because of its apple-like flavor, which can be a great pairing with scones and fruity sweets. 

Tea for Caffeine-Free Guests: Mint Tea

Peppermint tea is the most common mint tea in the U.S., and if you can find one made with pure mint leaves (not mixed with other tea leaves), then it is 100% caffeine free. People also use spearmint for a sweeter mint flavor. Both mint teas pair great with finger sandwiches, chocolates and fruity sweets. 

Tea for Relaxation: Lavender Tea 

Lavender is common in afternoon tea parties, often used to flavor scones and other baked goods. Its sweet and perfumed flavor pairs well with scones, cream and cookies. Lavender tea can have different variations which include a mixture of chamomile and mint. 

Tea with Light Flavors: White Tea

White tea is a naturally sweet concoction. Its name is derived from the white hairs of unopened buds of the tea plant. It has a silky and subtle flavor and is poorly paired with anything too strong. White tea is best paired with light-flavored foods like scones and sponge cakes. 

Tea with Fresh Fruit: Green Tea

Green tea has a vegetative flavor to it. Green teas with fruity notes, which have a sweeter flavor, work really well when paired with fruit salads or fruit-filled pastries and scones.

Tea with All Snacks: Oolong Tea

Grown in Southeast Asia, oolong tea contains a complex flavor that makes it compatible with many afternoon tea foods. It’s great to drink when you want to try out different foods throughout tea time, because its tasting notes will pair with most tea snacks.

There are different types of oolongs based on where they come from. Lighter oolongs have a fragrant aroma that’s best paired with salty flavored snacks. They’re mostly grown in Indonesia.  

The darker oolong which grows in Taiwan has a smooth flavored taste and aroma that is paired with stronger foods like a salami finger sandwich or smoked ham. 

Tea that Varies Based on the Season: Darjeeling Black Tea

Darjeeling black tea originates from Darjeeling, India, and its flavor depends on the season in which it’s harvested. Spring-plucked Darjeeling has more of a leafy flavor, while summer-plucked has more of a fruity flavor. They’re both paired well with savory afternoon tea foods such as chocolate, fruity desserts, and pastries. 


Deciding on what tea to use with such a wide variety of choices can be confusing. When in doubt, choose 5-6 different teas to taste so you can experience different flavors and learn what your preferences are!

Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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