“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”. Henry James, English Novelist

Generally speaking a classic Afternoon tea consists of 4 courses, all accompanied by copious amounts of tea. This may sound like a lot to eat but we are talking delicate little finger sandwiches and dainty amounts of cake that won’t leave you feeling too full.

First Course
Tea sandwiches – bite sized and crust free these come in all shapes and sizes but are normally cut into neat fingers, triangles or quarters of roughly equal sizes. Sandwiches come with fillings as simple as a few slices of cucumber on white, wheat or multigrain bread to a more elaborate filling of salmon mouse with smoked salmon and rolled into pinwheels.

Second Course
Scones  – served with jam and clotted cream (whipped cream works just as well).

There is a very long (continuing) debate in England as to what comes first. In Devon cream is spread on the scone then the jam. In Cornwall, jam comes first followed by the cream. (trust me there is no right or wrong answer – both taste very good).

Third Course
Cakes – some say ‘the best course of all’ – the cakes. This course is what everyone waits for and it is just as much fun preparing these little goodies as eating them. What you choose to serve can be left to the imagination and can feature some wonderful creations: bite sized cakes, pastries, Battenberg cake, fairy cakes, Victoria sponge, butterfly cakes, and fruit breads…the choice is up to you!

Fourth course
Butter biscuits – afternoon tea is not complete without a butter biscuit. These normally come in the guise of a piece of shortbread, flapjack or some other wonderful buttery delicacy.

Time for the Tea!

Afternoon tea would of course not be complete without tea. While loose tea or tea bags can be served, it is generally expected an assortment of tea be available, and there are three main types to choose from.

Black tea:
Assam; Ceylon, Darjeeling, Earl Grey (always an afternoon tea staple), English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Lapsang Souchong, Orange Pekoe, Russian and Yunnan.

Oolong or Red tea:
China Oolong and China Pouchong

Green tea:
Gunpowder and Jasmine

Twinings offers a wide variety of the tea listed above, while the majority of tea drinkers in England enjoy PG Tips and Typhoo.

Click here to learn more about tea and cake.