There’s little more sophisticated than the tiny sandwiches and delicate infusions of an afternoon tea experience – but the price tag of the classy lunch-time outing is often a little less dainty. Here’s how you can DIY your own, with tips on everything from nailing your decor to brewing the perfect cup of tea.
Lean into the pastel vibes
The easiest way to achieve immediate delicacy is to embrace the soft hues of a pastel colour palette. Pair a white tablecloth with light pinks, sky blues and pale yellows, and keep those colours in mind when you go shopping for your supplies and snacks. Grab a bouquet of flowers to brighten up the place, or find a garland of fake flowers so you can reuse them later. Suggest a casual pastel dress code for your guests to complete the look, pop some cute bunting up (here’s how to DIY your own) and go the extra mile with your very own three-tier stand.
Dazzle your guests with some expert tea brewing
Your choice of brew is the focal points of a successful afternoon tea. Our friends over at the Rare Tea Co have offered the following tips to create the perfect cup – and if you use THEKNOW15 at check out (on everything except subscriptions), we’ve sorted out a delicious little discount for you!
A good rule of thumb is to use one heaped teaspoon of tea and one teacup (150ml) per person.
Got good tea? Infuse it several times. Each time, different subtleties of flavour will be released – though make sure that tea leaves aren’t left to stew once they have been infused, as straining the tea completely between infusions will stop the leaves from becoming bitter. In China it’s thought that the second or third infusion of tea is its finest (though don’t try this with Tetley tea bags!).
For good leaf tea, water should be below boiling as the amino acids (which produce the tea’s flavour) dissolve at lower temperatures. Tea made with water at 100°C will be more astringent and less sweet. Ideally stop the kettle before it reaches the rolling boil – when the small bubbles form along the sides of the kettle – or splash out (pun intended) and get a temperature controlled kettle. However, once again, this is only for the good stuff – if you try to have lower temperature water with industrial tea bags you’ll end up with something that looks disturbingly like dishwater.
Sunny day? Consider a cold brew.
Using cold water allows the the flavour of the tea to softly seeps out of the leaves without breaking the cells, avoiding the oxidation that hot water causes that makes the flavour dull over the time. Prep it overnight by combining the dry leaf and cold filtered water in a clean, sealed vessel and pop it in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Strain the tea through the finest filter you have for a sweet, delicate treat – just be aware that you won’t be able to taste the concentration of caffeine, but the slow infusion means it’s absolutely packed with it!
Break the mould
Who says there have to be rules when it comes to a good afternoon tea? Mix it up to create your own variation on the classic: swap sandwiches for sliders, offer a pink gin tipple alongside the tea or jazz up your scones with slices of strawberry. You could even have your guests decorate their own mini blank biscuits for a fun twist. Experiment with your faves – just remember to keep it all mini and snack-sized!