How to Host an Afternoon Tea Party that Kills, on a Budget
Step 1: write the invitations
To host a party of any kind, you will need guests. There really is no better way to start your tea party preparation than to send out some invitations. Of course it's fine to just text and ask, but why not make it more fun and extra special by sending handwritten invitations? They are lovely and cute, and will make your guests feel extra special. Other than the date and venue, don’t forget to also let your guests know the theme of the party and the dress code.
Step 2: Set up the scene
Now that you have decided on the theme of the tea party, and the invitations have been sent, you can start to work on setting up the scene. Now, this could be as fancy or as rustic as you wish. Mix and match your teaware to make it fun and interesting. If you can afford it, there are tons of cute tea party props and pieces on Amazon, such as these Alice in Wonderland inspired cake stand and photo props, especially if it's a girls' party. Birdcage cupcake stands are also really cute especially for spring parties.
Flowers are nice, especially during the spring and summer seasons, but they could also be expensive. What I like to do then is to buy a cheap bundle of flower from my local grocery store, and remake them to make them more attractive. All you need is some empty glasses or some tealight holders. Fill them up half way with water, and then snip the flower so that they're just long enough to sit in your glasses. I find this trick make the them look so much more cute and dainty on the table, and it makes one single bunch of flower goes a really long way, hence saves me some money while still allowing me to have some fresh blooms on my party table. This is especially lovely during the warmer months when there is a wide selection of flowers available.
Music. A party is never complete without good music. Depending on the theme of your party, obviously you would like to find music that compliments your theme. If you're throwing a Alice in Wonderland themed party, then you would be looking for a whimsical playlist. If you're looking for something to go with your classic, Victorian themed afternoon tea, then classical music is great. If you're like me where you're throwing a casual party where people just chill and chat, Jazz is the one option that you could never go wrong with, and they're readily available on YouTube (keywords: tea time music; tea time jazz); all you need is your phone and a Bluetooth speaker and you're all set.
Step 3: The Tea
It's a tea party so having tea is a must, if it's not obvious enough LOL. If you have a larger crowd, try preparing a variety of tea for your guests to choose from. I usually like to do one black tea (aka the the time classic), one green/ white tea, and a pot of herbal/ floral tea. Check out my blog post here to find out how to brew the perfect cuppa for the tea of your choice that's sure to impress.
Some prefer to add milk and sugar into their tea, and lemon is always a nice add-on, so make sure you have them on hand and prepared on the table.
Although it is a TEA party, it doesn’t mean you could not enjoy some booooooze. Chill a bottle or two of champagne or prosecco, and a bottle of rose wine in an ice bucket and have it ready to go. They're so refereshing on a hot summer day and I just feel like a party is always more exciting if there's alcohol involved. Do make sure that everyone on the party drinks responsibly though because some times fun could become too much fun and we do not want that, right? Some refreshing cocktails couldn't be a bad idea either. Try preparing some fruit puree for your guest, so they could easily pour some bubblies over it to make a quick mimosa. Something like a summer sangria or a mojito will also be very nice.
Step 4: The FOOD!!!!!!
Traditionally speaking, finger food is served on a three-tiered cake stand, with sandwiches on the bottom, scones on the middle tier, and sweet delicacies on the top. Depending on your style and preference, you could serve your food the traditional way - on a tiered cake stand - or have them plated in nice dishes and display them on a dressed up table. No matter how you decide to present your food, you should still provide your guests with options, and make sure they have plenty to choose from.
Finger sandwiches are the staple, but small pastries and canapes are also well loved. I like to provide at least 3 options for my guests just to make it more interesting. These are some of my favourite savoury recipes for a tea party.
Sweet and Spicy mango chicken with crispy bacon crostini:
I came up with this recipe for no better reason than that I have some rotisserie chicken and leftover bacon sitting around in my fridge LOL. So what I did is that I skinned and shredded the chicken, placed it in a bowl, alongside with some chopped up crispy bacon (quick tip: fry the bacon in a tiny amount of water instead of oil makes the bacon crispier), and mixed in just enough spicy mango chutney so that the chicken and bacon is fully coated. Then I assembled the crostini by placing couple spinach/ rocket leaves onto a piece of toasted country loaf (you can use any bread really, I used this just because I happened to have them on hand), and then topped it with a tablespoon of the delicious, salty-sweet chicken and bacon mixture. This little piece of snack is so delicious that I couldn't stop eating it myself while I prepare for the party. So try to resist the urge of eating them all up before the party if you can.
Classic Egg Sandwich:
I started by hard-boiling 5 eggs (I had 5 guests so around 1 egg per guest). Then while the eggs are still warm, I peeled and smashed them with a fork. I added just Cupid mayonnaise that the egg mixture holds up together, 1/2 teaspoon of wasabi (or you could use English mustard), and some salt and pepper to taste. Then I let the mixture cool completely before I lay them onto a salad cress bedded multi-seed bread and make them into sandwiches. Since this is going to be a tea sandwich, I removed the crusts using a serrated bread knife, and then cute them into finger sized pieces.
Ricotta and Cucumber Crostini
Cream cheese, cucumber and dill sandwich is another stable on a traditional afternoon tea party. However I felt like doing something simpler and with less carbs so I remade the recipe into these light and refreshing ricotta and cucumber crostini. I started with some multi-seed crispbreads, I spread over some ricotta along with a sprinkle of salt. If you prefer something creamier and richer, then goat's cheese will be a good substitute. Then I added several thinly sliced English cucumbers and then boom it's done. If you have any fresh herbs on hand, this is the time where you add a light sprinkle of mint or tarragon or dill to make it even better. So good and so refreshing.
Smoked Salmon and Avocado Open Faced Sandwich
This requires a little more budget to make because hey, smoked salmon ain't cheap, but if you can spare some extra bucks these are so good and it's a dish that sure to impress. It's incredibly easy to make as well; all you need to do is to cut out little rounds from some rye bread using a cookie cutter, then spread on a thin layer of cream cheese, follow by some smashed avocados, and then top that with a piece of smoke salmon. Finish it off with a sprig of dill and then you have it! Rich and delicious open faced sandwich that will impress your guests.
You cannot call it a proper English afternoon tea if there's no scone. Now, freshly baked homemade scones are always best, but if you don't have the time, good quality store bought ones are also great. The tradition is to serve these flaky baked goods with clotted cream and jam. As much as I like clotted cream, I also like having my scones with a good dollop of fresh, whipped cream, sweetened with good quality honey. So I always prepare both so that me and my guests can have options. Speaking of options, try to prepare a selection of jams for the party to make sure we have most of our guests covered. Strawberry jams and marmalade are stables, but my personal favourite is lemon curd. These sweet and tangy sunshine is the perfect scone companion on a warm summer day.
The Sweet Bites:
This is where things get excited and creative. You can serve cakes, puddings, petit four, cookies, sweet pastries… the possibility is endless. It's great of course if you planned to prepare the sweet treats yourself. But if things are getting a little overwhelming, it's also a good idea to ask each of your guests to bring one dessert. Not only that will lift some of the pressure, it also keeps things mysterious and spicy because it would be a surprise and no one will know what's on the sweet menu until the day of the party. Is that not just exciting?
For this particular party, because I have quite some guests so I decided to lay out all my food on a board and make sure that I evenly distribute all the snacks and nibbles across the table, so it's easier for everyone to grab. The final product looked so good and everyone had a really great time, I was really happy about how this turned out!
Step 5: Enjoy your time
Now that you've done all the hard work, and the party is set and ready to go. This is the time where you enjoy the fruit of your hard labour and have fun with all your friends and family. Happy tea party! :)