Thursday, May 5, 2016

How to style your afternoon tea

When you're throwing together an afternoon tea, it's all about bringing together not just taste but presentation.  The few times I've done them, I've been delighted that not only have my guests felt like they were in a boutique tea parlor but that the attention to detail made them "feel special" or like it was "above and beyond expectations."  That's pretty much how I roll anyway when entertaining but especially when it comes to a spot of tea.  It's a moment to enjoy good food, good people and the presentation is the icing on the scone.  When they were thrown together haphazardly and no attention to detail given, it just fell flat and that isn't what you want if you're going to the trouble.  Because an afternoon tea is more of a ritual where presentation counts, otherwise it's just hanging out.

I took my inspiration from my two favorite places, The Gryphon Tea Room in Savannah and Crown and Crumpet in San Francisco.  I based my style on not only my experience there but scrolling through the Yelp pictures others shared.  One touch I like are those little baby jam jars from Bonne Maman.  If you have a World Market close, they usually sell them in the little gift basket section.  It can be nice for people to have their own little jams to spread on scones and such.  Maybe I'm just easily amused and you know what, that's okay because it's quite literally the little things.  Here are a few examples of how I've styled my tables for afternoon tea.

The first was at the beginning of the Christmas season and since I rarely get to break out my good dinnerware, I was all over it.


My table setting is pretty simple because you want the tea and food to be the star.  But I've had this pretty Christmas dinnerware for many years and it's like it was made for occasions like this.  The napkins were just inexpensive white cloth napkins ($1 a piece on sale) and I used a small red ornament with jute twine as the napkin holder.


Obviously you don't have to get this fancy pants but if you have a truckload of teas like I do, it's nice to write or print out your tea list for guests to peruse.  You can rattle off everything and they won't remember half of what you said you had so this is a nice touch.  I made the template on Picmonkey.com.


This particular tea was serving as a main meal as we all skipped breakfast to fit it in!  So I did my twist on traditional tea sandwiches with the zucchini and chicken sandwiches.  I found some awesome shrimp and grits bites at Trader Joe's but I don't think I've seen them since the holidays.  If you guys remember my bacon date jam, then the middle plate tarts will look familiar.  Just grab some of those frozen phyllo dough cups from the freezer section, thaw and fill with the bacon date jam.  Make enough for everyone to have at least two, these are always a hit!  The flat lacy thingy's are parmesan crisps.  Just shred about 1 oz of parm on a silpat and bake until golden brown, let rest for 5 minutes and put on a paper towel.  I added some green grapes and red strawberries as palate cleansers before dessert.


I'd also been dying to make my Jordan Pond House popovers on a cake stand and I sprinkled with a bit of turbinado sugar.  Popovers are more a vehicle for things like jam, honey and such.  They were awesome.


I always like to have a few honeys on hand for the tea or to drizzle on popovers.  I also only had a large jar of the Bonne Mamen strawberry preserves so I scooped it into a little container to fit on the pewter cake stand I was using for condiments.  I also made my own honey butter.  I just softened some butter and added a tablespoon of cinnamon honey and gave it a goodly stir.  Perfect for popovers or scones!


After gabbing for a few hours, it was time for our 2nd round of tea with dessert.  I stewed some apples and spooned them in pre-made tart shells with a little oatmeal crumble on top.  The macarons are a year round treat at Trader Joe's in chocolate and vanilla.  They're smaller than regular macarons at a patisserie which makes them perfect for afternoon tea.  There are some nutella tarts (phyllo shells with 2 tsp of nutella and a quick squirt of Redi Whip...hey, no one said they had to be fancy ingredients!)   The top layer was the biggest hit.  Crunchy Biscoff spread mixed with lite Cool Whip and scooped into phyllo cup.  Obviously sub whatever whipped topping doesn't make you recoil in horror before you dog on my once a year indulgence of Cool Whip.  ;-)

If you're looking to do a bit of a healthier version and with a fun springtime theme, this one is for you.

Because the person I was having over is into natural sweeteners, I had powdered stevia and an array of honeys.


The setting was a little more casual and fun.  I made those placemats to sell but ended up liking them myself so I kept them!  I had these pretty peacock blue napkins and just reused the jute twine for the napkin holder.  I used vintage mismatched bone china teacups and individual teapots.


Pair it all with some pretty flowers like hydrangeas and some filler flowers in a short vase.


On to the spread...


Zucchini sandwiches with baby spinach and arugula salad with pomegranate seeds.  The salad was tossed with a great sweet onion bacon vinaigrette from Trader Joe's that I hope they keep for a long time.  (Though something tells me stocking up may be a good idea)


The middle layer is Thai chicken salad with some turmeric for color in endive lettuce cups.  The containers are cooked sugar snap peas tossed in a teaspoon of olive oil with a little salt, pepper and garlic.


The top layer were simple sweets like chocolate drizzle strawberries, almond stuffed dates and homemade "faux Newtons."


It was super fun and my guest was raving about the food and the details.  She loved it so much, she asked for recipes and took them to a party she was attending the following week.

I hope this gives you some great ideas to entertain and put together your own fancy pants afternoon tea for you and a friend or someone special.  It's the perfect setting for special holidays, bridesmaids lunches/showers or bachelorette parties too!

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1 comment:

  1. I have always wanted to throw a fancy tea party but honestly was too intimidated by all of the perfect Pinterest ideas I saw. I love how you broke down exactly what foods you served, how to make the cute decorations, and some lovely pairings of jams and honeys to accompany your delectable treats. After reading your post, I think I can do this!

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