Spring is the time of year where thoughts turn to life’s simple pleasures. One of those simple yet elegant pleasures is the tradition of taking tea. Afternoon tea is a wonderful way to relax during the day and catch up with family and friends. It doesn’t matter if it’s high tea or something a little more intimate, here are some things that can make your tea time extra special.
Traditional Tea Time
Since the 18th Century, tea time has been a tradition in England; one that has spread to every part of the British Empire and beyond. Tea time in England is served between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. and provides an appreciated break from the day and is a welcome repast before traditional dinner at 8 p.m.
What You Will Need
Even if you weren’t fortunate enough to inherit your grandmother’s antique silver tray, any large tray will do. Cover this with a light linen cloth or paper doily to line the inside.
- A china or earthenware teapot is perfect for holding hot water straight from the kettle.
- Add a milk jug or pitcher
- A sugar bowl
- Cups and saucers – mugs will do in a pinch
- A tea strainer
- A small dish of lemon wedges (for those who prefer a bit of citrus in their tea)
- Loose leaf or bagged tea
Traditional Sweet Scones
When you think of a classic tea, you might picture the iconic tea and scones combination. You can purchase them at your local bakery, but there is something satisfying about making your own to serve. Scones are fairly easy and fuss-free so you can make them yourself without much trouble. Remember, scones are best served on the day that they’re made.
You will need the following ingredients:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated pure cane sugar
2/3 cup milk
Preheat your oven to 425 °F (220 Celsius). Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the 8 tablespoons of cold butter with a pastry cutter or mix with your fingers until the consistency is fine and crumbly.
Add sugar to the mixture and recombine. Add milk and blend with a wooden spoon. Lightly flour a cutting board or pastry stone and knead into a ball. Roll the ball out with a rolling pin or press down with your hands until the dough is flat and about 1 ½ inches thick.
You may cut these into wedges, use a pastry cutter, or shape them into 2 -3 inch balls and place on a well-greased baking sheet or one lined with non-stick parchment paper.
Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 8- 10 minutes or until they are well-risen and the tops are golden brown.
Although hot scones are delicious, you will want to leave them on a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
Serve your scones with butter, Devonshire clotted cream, and fruit preserves on the side.
Cucumber sandwiches are best started the day before your tea. Cucumbers have a high water content so slice them and lay them out on a baking sheet lined and covered with paper towels the night before. Place them in the refrigerator so that they don’t wilt. This will make them the perfect consistency for your tea party.
What would cucumber sandwiches be without the perfect dill spread? This recipe is also best assembled the night before and taken out about 30 minutes before you are ready to assemble your sandwiches.
You will need:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel for zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch of black pepper
Assemble your cucumber sandwiches on high-quality sandwich bread. Cut into finger-sized rectangles, or use cookie cutters to shape them to fit the theme of your party.
Open-Faced Salmon Tea Sandwiches
8 ounces smoked, thinly sliced salmon
4 slices or approximately ½ loaf Pumpernickel bread
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
A pinch of black pepper
Keep the salmon refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches. Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature. In a bowl combine the cream cheese, horseradish, lemon zest, and pepper until smooth.
(Note: If you happen to have any remaining cream cheese and dill mixture leftover from the cucumber sandwiches, you may decide to substitute this mixture instead.
On a work surface, lay out the slices of bread and spread approximately 2 tablespoons of spread to cover the bread. Top each piece with smoked salmon. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out 3-4 finger sandwiches from each slice. Add a dollop of the cream cheese mixture to each of the small finger sandwiches and garnish with watercress, cilantro, and a pinch of fresh, roughly chopped dill or chives.
Now all that’s left is to arrange the setting before your guests arrive. Cover the table with a cloth and arrange your tea trays, plates, or even tea tier to display scones, cakes, and assorted finger foods for the occasion. If you don’t have a tea tier; don’t sweat it! Just use separate plates to serve an assortment of sandwiches, scones, pastries, cakes, cookies, or even dunking biscuits for your guests. Remember to put out the milk and sugar beforehand. Make sure the milk is cold but not so cold it cools the tea too quickly. You can spruce up your table by adding a centerpiece of fresh cut flowers; gather them from your own garden on the morning of your tea party, or pop to the market to pick out a bouquet.
There are endless possibilities for making afternoon tea time something special for your family and close friends. The key is to relax, share good conversation, and simply enjoy the day. But if you want your tea time to be extra-special, pair your afternoon tea session with some Sir Jason Winters tea. Tea parties aren’t just for standard teas!
“Afternoon Tea” by Holly Sinclair, 2012, Web Holidays, Inc. Web.
“Tea at Downton Abbey” by Elizabeth Fellow, 2014, Create Space Publishing, Seattle, WA.
“Afternoon Tea and Cakes: Enjoy an Afternoon of Luxury at Home” by Linda Gray, 2017, Healthy Living Books