How to Host: Traditional English Afternoon Tea

Naturally, as we begin to assemble our themed tea party planning guides, we must start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start): with England, birthplace of afternoon tea. [Get the full history of afternoon tea here]. If you are already an Anglophile (Agatha Christie, we love you!), your wheels may be spinning, recalling icons of British culture and history that you might weave into your presentation of an English afternoon tea.

how to host a traditional english afternoon tea, by Destination Tea

We did the same, sifting through our experiences of more than 100 afternoon teatimes, stateside and abroad, to suggest an English Afternoon Tea party guide that is authentic and doable. Rather than recreate the wheel, we scoured the Internet for easy, surefire recipes and cool party ideas and gathered it all into our new Traditional English Afternoon Tea Pinterest board.

Notes on Using Destination Tea to Plan Your Tea Party

Destination Tea's Tea Party Planner with shopping list for afternoon tea
Destination Tea's Tea Party Planner with shopping list for afternoon tea

Here’s how we suggest using our resources:

  1. Print out a front-and-back copy of Destination Tea’s Tea Party Planner.
  2. As you browse The Scene, Tea Selection, Tea Sandwiches, Scones and Sweets ideas in our Traditional English Afternoon Tea Pinterest board, choose which items you’ll have at your tea party, and fill in the related sections of your Tea Party Planner, adding needed items and ingredients to your Shopping List.
  3. Note that this Pinterest guide includes a converter to help you make sense of British cooking measurements.
  4. Bookmark, pin or print any recipes you like from the Traditional English Afternoon Tea Pinterest board, and have fun making your preparations!

Setting the Scene? That’s Everything!

In The Scene board, you’ll find suggestions for creative touches that will make your British teatime special, which you can add to “The Scene” section of your Tea Party Planner, including:

  • Decorations: Quick video tutorial on making your own bunting, a traditional English celebratory decoration.
  • Tablescape: Custom Tudor Rose fabric that can be used for tablecloth, tea napkins or placemats. Centerpiece suggestion and background story on why you may want to feature roses at your English afternoon tea.
  • Teaware: Four English pottery houses dating back to the 18th century whose teacups or tea trays you may like to feature on your tea table.
  • Favors: “Keep Calm and Drink Tea” tea bag envelopes, and Tudor Rose wax seal.
  • Activities: Videos about the history of “Keep Calm and Carry On” and Afternoon Tea Etiquette by renowned British etiquette expert. We suggest either sending these to guests with their invite to get them in the spirit, or watching yourself and presenting to guests in person.

The Menu: A Traditionally English Afternoon Tea

We referenced British sources to confirm that our suggested menu encompasses traditionally English afternoon tea fare, including some of the Queen’s favorites.

Selecting Your Teas

For a popular black tea option, you could always go with teas that are household names in England, such as Yorkshire Tea or PG Tips (we’ve enjoyed both), or consider some of the following for interest and variety.

  • Twinings’ English Breakfast
  • Fortnum & Mason’s Earl Grey Classic
  • Fortnum & Mason’s Darjeeling
  • Fortnum & Mason’s Ceylon Orange Pekoe
  • Red Blossom Teas’ Alishan Formosa Oolong
  • Rishi’s Silver Needle White Tea
  • ZenTea’s Organic Sencha Green
  • Tea Makers of London Green Teas
  • An Herbal Tisane (fruit or mint)

We recommend loose leaf teas, and to demystify that brewing process, see our video below.

Tea Sandwiches

Note this Pinterest board also includes an article with pointers for cutting and storing tea sandwiches for elegant service.

  • Cucumber with Mint (and several variations)
  • Egg and Cress (watercress)
  • Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese
  • Ham and Mustard
  • Coronation Chicken
  • Jam Pennies

Scones & Spreads

Of course, you can always purchase clotted cream, lemon curd and preserves, but for you DIYers, we’ve added a how-to on making your own clotted cream. It’s effortless! We also have an instructional video from Jamie Oliver and two more iconic scone recipes from the UK National Trust and renowned British baker Mary Berry.

Clotted cream at Vintage Tea Tours


What’s for dessert? Our chosen recipes here have been influenced by our British expat hostesses over the years.

  • Victoria Sponge Cake
  • Chocolate Biscuit Cake
  • Jaffa Cake
  • Cherry Bakewell Tart
  • Battenberg Cake
  • Mini Treacle Tart
  • Gooseberry Fool

Oh, and for all those curious or unsure, it’s scone like gone, not scone like stone.”

– Fortnum & Mason’s Tea Salon Afternoon Tea Menu

Let’s Get Started Planning Your English Afternoon Tea

If you recommend a classic English treat, tea or party game that we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments, thank you! Click on the pinboard below to delve into our suggestions for your traditional English afternoon tea and happy party planning!

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


    1. Thank you, and for sharing your article. It is fun to see how an American afternoon tea is imagined in England. PB&J is a good call — sometimes offered at a children’s afternoon tea here.

  1. Thank for the reminder! I have an excellent bakery, Helen Bernhard Bakery, in my neighborhood for bread and sweets. I’ll make my own sandwich fillings and scones. Plenty of tea in stock.

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