How to Host: Southern Afternoon Tea

Of all the afternoon teas we have attended over the last 15 years, the overwhelming majority of them have been hosted by Southern tearooms and teahouses. After all, the South is home to Destination Tea, based in Dunwoody, Georgia, so it is with some local pride that we present our Southern Afternoon Tea Party Guide. Though Southern tearooms are often sweetly decorated with homespun, feminine touches, make no mistake: there is nothing dainty about the Southern afternoon tea menu. Our choices for this tea party were also influenced by the bountiful farm culture of the South, the gracious society of Bible Belt church ladies, and the intense heat of the long Southern summer.

How to Host a Southern Afternoon Tea

While the menu items in our new Southern Afternoon Tea Pinterest board by no means encompass every traditional Southern teatime food, they include some of our favorites, as well as inspiration for decorating your tea table and accessorizing, plus favors and activities for your guests.

Notes on Using Destination Tea to Plan Your Tea Party

Destination Tea's Tea Party Planner - The Scene
Destination Tea's Tea Party Planner - The Menu

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 The Scene, Tea Selection, Tea Sandwiches, Scones and Sweets ideas in our Southern 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 Southern 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 Southern teatime special, which you can add to “The Scene” section of your Tea Party Planner, including:

  • Dressing the Part: Two Etsy sites for elegant gloves and gorgeous tea hats;
  • Tablescape: Lacy tablecloths and doilies are frequent guests on a Southern tea table, as well as fresh flowers. We include a 101 on flower arrangement for your centerpiece, and source for decorative lacy table mats;
  • Favors: “Bless Your Heart” tea towels, and magnolia-scented candles made in the South;
  • Activities: Decorative paper fan DIY how-to, no-sew-no-iron monogrammed tea towel craft, “Bless Your Heart” and “Just Like Mama Used to Say” Southern trivia games.

The Menu: Southern Afternoon Tea

To assemble this menu, we gathered popular items we’ve seen on afternoon tea menus in Southern tearooms and teahouses. We also referenced the recipes in “The Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook,” developed from the legendary Atlanta tearoom that was open from 1927 to 1962.

Each culture has its ‘rites of passing,’ its ritual for announcing that young girls have become women. For us in Carrollton, Georgia, my home town, that ritual was shopping alone in Atlanta and having lunch at the Frances Virginia Tea Room.”

— Mildred Huff Coleman, The Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook

Selecting Your Teas

When you need an iced tea option for your warm-weather Southern teatime, you must be aware of the iconic Southern beverage: sweet tea. Though typically made with store-bought tea like Lipton, you can absolutely make your own version with any strong tea, adjusting the sweetness, which traditionally is sweet as candy. Our tea selection also includes popular Southern flavors like peach and pecan, from Southern tea companies in Georgia, Florida and Arkansas.

  • Sweet Tea
  • Two Peaches Black Tea by Jayida Ché Herbal Tea Spot
  • Pecan Pastry Green Tea by Driftwood Tea Company
  • Berries on the Beltline Herbal by just add honey
  • Ginger Honey Peach Black Tea by Savoy Tea Co.
  • Alpharetta Afternoon Black Blend by Urban Tea

Tea Sandwiches / Savories

In many Southern tea rooms, quiche is often offered as an additional course or sliced thinly on the tea tray, so we include quiche recipes two ways: a full pie, or as mini individual pies. The nut and cream cheese sandwich may seem like an outlier amongst the mayonnaise-based salads so popular in the South, but we include it as a nod to the era of the Frances Virginia Tea Room.

  • Pimiento Cheese
  • Egg Salad
  • Ham Salad
  • Chicken Salad
  • Pineapple, Nuts & Cream Cheese
  • Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
  • Mini Quiches Four Ways

Scones & Spreads

We include jam suggestions from two Georgia-based companies that use local produce, along with scones in traditional Southern flavors. Of course, you can always purchase clotted cream, but for you DIYers, we’ve added a how-to on making your own clotted cream. It’s effortless!

  • Sweet Potato Scones
  • Brown Sugar and Cream Cheese Scones
  • Peach Vanilla Bean Preserves
  • Raspberry-Jalapeno Jam


What’s for dessert? Let’s just be honest, the culture that hydrates with sweet teas and Arnold Palmers doesn’t skimp on sweets, and so neither did we. It was fun discovering the history of these popular Southern treats, many of which originated elsewhere, but became family favorites in the South. Some say the Red Velvet cake had a revival in the South after the cake starred in 1989’s Steel Magnolias. Check our notes in each pin for details!

  • Maple Pecan Tassies (aka Mini Pecan Pies)
  • Hummingbird Cake
  • Mini Red Velvet Cakes
  • Peach Cobbler in Ramekins
  • Tea Cakes
  • Mini Key Lime Pies
  • Coconut Cream Pies

Let’s Get Started Planning Your Southern Afternoon Tea

If you recommend a classic Southern 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 Southern afternoon tea and happy party planning!

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

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