There’s nothing like a tea party to put a bit of oomph into the week. It’s a great opportunity to liven up a Saturday or to get those stay-at-home parents and kids together in the afternoon. Everybody gets to socialize, get out of the house, treat themselves to some fancy food and drink – and it doesn’t take as much work as a dinner party, especially if you encourage the other mums and dads (and kids) to contribute a dish. It’s a British tradition, and Brits are known for their afternoon tea!
To start with, you’ll need a bit of kit to get the proper effect. Buy or make a tiered cake stand for all those sweet things to go on, and lay out the best (or most indestructible) crockery to create an atmosphere. Thrift shops are perfect for picking up something kitsch, floral, charming – and expendable, should breakages occur!
You’ll want to add some old lady-style doilies to fascinate the children, table cloths for both decoration and protection, and perhaps even some bunting – the quickest way to create a party scene!
The afternoon tea spread
For a memorable afternoon you’ll want to turn to the British for inspiration. Up and down the UK, every region has its own special tea party treat – there’s a great new map of them here. Shortbread is a special cookie from Scotland, very buttery and sweet, and not too difficult to make if you can’t find it in a shop. In Wales or the North West of England you might be more likely to be served something in between a cake and a cookie for your afternoon tea: a Welsh cake or an Eccles cake, for example. They’re serious propositions, invented as they were to get underground miners through a long day’s work.
Or, if you really want a fatty treat, you can go for a Cornish or Devon cream tea – scones, clotted cream, and jam. Another tea party mainstay is a Victoria sponge, which is so British that it was named after Queen Victoria. Two layers of sponge cake with jam and cream in between may sound pretty heavy, but in moderation it’s actually lighter than some of the other options.
Choosing the drinks
To drink, of course you want gallons of traditional ‘British’ brown tea – normal black tea with milk. For something a bit fancier, you could try Ceylon or Darjeeling with or without milk. In fact, you’ll be gasping for it if you’ve dried up your mouth with that shortbread! But the kids may prefer fruit cordial or orange juice, which is perfectly acceptable at a British tea party.
Finally, it’s not strictly a tea party ritual, but you may want to have some paper bags on standby so the kids can take home a slice of leftover cake when the party’s over. Because what use is a party if you leave empty handed?