How to Host: Italian Afternoon Tea

Destination Tea’s Italian Afternoon Tea party guide is in part a love letter to Angela’s family and Italian heritage. In keeping with any Italian affair, the food at an Italian Afternoon Tea should be buonissimo and, it goes without saying, no one goes home hungry. At an Italian party, the only thing that matters more than the food is the gathered friends and family. When Grandma Freda would say, “this too shall pass,” it was a reminder that nothing — good or bad — lasts forever. That’s why we need to hold our loved ones close and relish the time we have together. This sentiment is also reflected in Angela’s father’s mantra to his grandchildren on every visit:

What’s the most important thing? La famiglia!”

Three generations of Fredas at afternoon tea, the month after Grandma Reina’s passing. The staff at Ivy Tea House in Norcross kindly set a place for her, across from her daughter, so she could be with us in spirit. In Dad’s customary post-meal review, he commented on how filling the meal was (a major compliment from an Italian-American).

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 Italian 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. Bookmark, pin or print any recipes you like from the Italian 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 Italian themed teatime special, which you can add to “The Scene” section of your Tea Party Planner, including:

  • Tablescape:
    • Lace tablecloths
    • Antique Italian napkins
  • Teaware:
    • Spode Green Italian Teapot (depicting Italian countryside)
    • Spode Blue Italian Teacups (depicting Italian countryside)
    • Spode Green Italian Tea Bag Tidy
  • Favors:
    • Homemade Limoncello
    • Homemade Italian Seasoning
    • Homemade Biscotti
    • Boxed Confetti (candied almonds), Assorted flavors
  • Activities:
    • Tombola (Italian bingo)
    • How to Tie a Scarf, Italian-Style (could combine with fashion scarves as favors)
    • Italian Hand Gestures (learn and use during the tea)
  • Music:
    • Italian Opera Mix
    • Italian Classical Composers Mix

The Menu: Italian Afternoon Tea

To assemble an Italian Afternoon Tea Menu, we got nostalgic, visiting childhood memories of family parties in New York and New Jersey, and the recipes we pass from generation to generation. We recalled the favorite foods and flavors of the Fredas and Reinas, found both in the kitchen and in the garden.

Until fairly recently in Italian history, tea has been a drink primarily used for medicinal purposes — chamomile chief among the tisane della salute (healthy herbal teas). Rather, Italians are known around the world for their love of coffee and wine. However, over the last 50 years, a growing interest in true teas has been developing in Italy. Delve into our suggestions below and check out our “Love and Tea for Italy” post to see how teatime marries with Italian culture today.

babington's tearoom in Roma
Babingtons Tea Room, at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome, was founded in 1893 by two young women — Isabel Cargill and Anna Maria Babington — at a time when tea was only found at the chemist’s, because it was seen as purely medicinal. More than 125 years later, Isabel’s great-grandchildren continue to run the thriving, historic tearoom.

Selecting Your Teas

We include teas from Italian tea companies Babingtons (more here about this 19th century British tea room in Rome); and La Via del , a 50-year-old Florentine tea purveyor. Our tea choices also incorporate ingredients famously grown in Italy – such as the Bergamot oranges that flavor Earl Grey teas, as well as lemon verbena, almonds, roses and chestnuts.

  • Earl Grey Imperial Tea by Babingtons
  • 125th Anniversary Blend by Babingtons
  • Rose Pouchong by Fortnum & Mason
  • Almond Chocolate Green Tea by The First Sip of Tea
  • Chestnut Oolong Tea by La Via del Tè
  • Organic White Rose by Numi
  • Garden Therapy Herbal Tea (chamomile, peppermint and lemon verbena) by Harney & Sons

To demystify the brewing process for loose leaf teas, see our video below.

Tea Sandwiches

Tramezzinitra mezzo means in between (as these are enjoyed in between main meals) — are small triangular sandwiches widely available in Italian cafes. When they are cut into small squares, they are called francobolli (postage stamps). These rose to popularity in the early 20th century, an Italian version of the British tea sandwich, and our recommended fillings include popular Italian cheeses, veggies, herbs and meats.

  • Prosciutto-Arugula with Parmesan
  • Eggplant Caponata (Angela’s family recipe)
  • Caprese (traditional Italian salad pairing of tomato, mozzarella and basil)
  • Cucumber Mascarpone
  • Asparagus and Egg with Homemade Mayo
  • Artichoke and Lemon Zest with Basil

Scones & Spreads

We include both a sweet and savory scone recommendation, again incorporating that Italian Bergamot orange flavor with the Earl Grey scone. Our jam choices reflect two popular plants in an Italian-American’s garden: fig trees and tomato plants, and we include a mock clotted cream made with sweet and creamy Italian mascarpone.

  • Earl Grey Scones
  • Basil & Parmesan Scones
  • Fig Pomegranate Jam
  • Cherry Tomato Jam
  • Homemade Mock Clotted Cream with Mascarpone

Sweets

What’s for dessert? Popular Italian ingredients like ricotta, almonds, zucchini and oranges are reflected in our dessert course. We also pulled in recipes from family and our neighborhood Italian deli, and found petite versions of several famous Italian pastries.

  • Almond Ricotta Bars
  • Mini Cannoli Pies
  • Fruit Cake Bundt Style by East 48th Street Deli
  • Almond Poppy Seed Tea Cakes
  • Tiramisu Macarons
  • Zucchini Crumb Cake
  • Orange Chocolate Mini Cupcakes
  • Grammie Francolini’s Ricotta Cookies (Angela’s in-laws family recipe)

Let’s Get Started Planning Your Italian Afternoon Tea

If you recommend a delicious treat, tea or fun Italian themed party game, please let us know in the comments, thank you! Click on the pinboard below to delve into our suggestions for your Italian Afternoon Tea and happy party planning!

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

We love comments! Destination Tea's comment policy shares a guiding principle with afternoon tea etiquette: please be gracious. We welcome honest comments that are not rude or scathing.