Hosting a tea party

tea party

Contrary to what we expect when we hear “come over for coffee”, afternoon tea is typically more of an elegant affair.

Afternoon tea is considered to be one of the quintessential British traditions and enjoying a traditional afternoon tea if you are visiting London, at one of the fine hotels which offer it, is an experience not to be missed. A chance to indulge in some lovely delicious pastries and sample some specially selected teas too. But while you’re here we’ll share some tips on how you may host a tea party whether you’d like to bring some friends together or celebrate a special event such as a birthday or baby shower. The level of formality is up to you.

Bring out your best china, silverware, crockery and tea sets and let’s start planning with a basic list for your own tea party.

After all, who wouldn’t take up the opportunity to set aside a couple of hours from a hectic life to enjoy a cup of tea with friends?

What you will need:


Fresh flowers



Tea (loose leaf)

Hot water (for those who like to weaken their tea)

Tea strainer



White and brown sugar cubes (although white is preferred with tea)

Clotted cream (Cornish or Devonshire)






Serving plates

Tiered cake stand

Creamer/Milk jug

Sugar bowl

Sugar tongs

Small plates

Cake server (if you have a cake to cut to celebrate an event)

Lemon – thinly sliced (not wedges)

Lemon fork

Setting your theme

Decide on the theme or colour scheme you’d like to create. This depends on the occasion however usually florals, pastel colours and softer themes are widely used. If you are stuck, there is so much inspiration online that you will be spoilt for choice.

Setting the table

Choose your tablecloth to start off with and set the table in a way that makes it easy for your guests to reach for items like sugar bowls, milk jugs and lemon slices. Every person’s place setting should have a teacup, saucer, teaspoon, small plate, napkin and any utensils they would need. Before putting the teapots on the table with tea, pour boiling water in the teapot and empty it as this will prevent the brew from cooling too quickly.

The three distinct courses

If you have a three tiered cake stand, then you would serve the courses as follows:

On the bottom tier: Finger sandwiches

On the middle tier: Scones

On the top tier: Pastries and cakes

They are served in this order because one would typically start with the sandwiches, which are savoury and proceed to eating the scones with clotted cream and jam and finally indulging in the top tier pastries and cake.

And if you hear the phrase ‘Shall I be mother?‘ during the tea party, then know that the person is offering to pour the tea.

Traditionally, a tea party is held between three o’clock and five o’clock. So plan ahead and enjoy hosting your guests to your own afternoon tea.

Ramona Galea

Ramona is an International Etiquette Coach and an avid believer of the importance these soft skills have nowadays. This passion kicked off from a young age when she questioned why elbows couldn’t stay on the table and her inquisitiveness continued and she founded First Class Etiquette, to address the developing need for people’s understanding of the importance of international business and social etiquette. It really is not just about elbows but confidence, attitude, assertiveness and knowing the how, the when and the why we do things. Amongst her hectic schedule, her two biggest indulgences are travelling with her family and reading with an Aperol Spritz in quiet surroundings - just being away from it all to de-stress.

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