English High Tea Style Guide

An English High Tea event is all about refined elegance.

An English High Tea takes one back to a slower time when guests enjoyed meeting to gossip and drink tea over a whole afternoon. Usually, these events would take place in the drawing-room of the host’s home, or sometimes at upper-class hotels.

English High Tea Style Guide

An English High Tea, or Afternoon Tea would be served in the late afternoon around 3 pm and would often go into the evening with more substantial food offerings to replace a full dinner. An English High Tea has a mixture of cold and hot, sweet and savory finger foods. 

Tea, coffee, and juices are served, and sometimes, sparkling wine and/or cocktails as the afternoon progresses. At more elegant events, wine and sherry were also available.

We like serving the Harney & Sons Royal English Breakfast Tea. It also comes in a beautiful tin that looks like tea direct from the Royal Palace. Perfect!

Invitations To An English High Tea Party

An English High Tea really starts with the invitations. To set the scene well these should be more formal on heavy cards in cream envelopes. Tell guests they are cordially invited to attend an English Style High Tea at the residence of the Host from 3 pm. Let guests know if there will be a dress code of English Style Formal Tea Dresses and white gloves. You can set a fun dress code such as Downton Abby Style or Queen of England Style.

Keep the old-fashioned theme by posting the invitations by mail to your guests with handwritten names and addresses. Or even better hand-deliver them in person.

We love these Royal Blue Invitations with cards, ribbons, and matching envelopes. They feel Royaly British, like something the Queen might send. Keep the old-fashioned theme by posting the invitations by mail to your guests with handwritten names and addresses. Or even better hand-deliver them in person.

Setting The Scene For Afternoon Tea

An English High Tea is refined and elegant. It can be a more formal event, with classic decorations and table settings. This is not the theme for over-the-top embellishments or decorations. A classic vintage style works best for this party.

The basics of An English style Afternoon Tea include:

  • White tablecloths
  • Starched linen napkins
  • Matching Fine Bone China Teacups and Saucers
  • Silver teaspoons
  • Silver serving tongs
  • Fine china teapots, plates, sugar bowls
  • Crystal or cut glass jam bowls.
  • Large vases of flowers, roses, and hyacinths.
English High Tea Style Guide

Classic White Table Clothes make an elegant base to design your afternoon tea party style. We recommend this classic white tablecloth by NewBridge

Pretty Matching Plates, Cups and Saucers, Tea Pots, and Sugar bowls like this Royal Albert New Country Roses Polka Rose Tea Set add to the refined theme of this tea party.

Afternoon Tea Place settings

Place a handwritten name card at each place setting with a small menu card. Beside each place setting place a small side plate with a knife and linen napkin in a silver or porcelain napkin ring.

In the center of the place setting sit a pretty vintage Fine Bone China teacup and saucer with a silver spoon on the saucer.

Add sugar bowls and milk creamers to the table. You will bring the teapots filled with hot tea later. If you are serving bubbly wine also set the table with champagne flutes.

Use Tiered Cakes Stands

Serve the food on gorgeous old-fashioned plates and cake stands. Tiered plates look perfect in this setting.

When setting the food on tiered plates, remember to put savory food on the bottom and sweet things on the top plate.

The Royal Albert New Country Roses Vintage Cake Stand is one of the prettiest we have seen.

These Royal Albert Teacups are the perfect matching sets for adding to the table. Pick and choose your favorite design, for these are tea cups you will want to keep forever!

English High Tea Style Guide

Be sure to have enough dishes of jams, cream, and honey for adding to the scones.

For the tea service, have small dishes of sliced lemons for placing in your tea. You can make the teapots full of loose leaf tea, in which case remember to offer guests a tea strainer when pouring the tea.

Alternatively, have a selection of flavored tea bags on offer for guests to choose their own tea.

Classic English High Tea Food Selections

Savory Selections

Selection of small sandwiches and Club sandwiches

(lots of ideas in our Classic Sandwiches Post)

Devilled Eggs

Mini Quiches

Sausage Rolls

Tomato tart

Cold meat platter

Cheese Platter

Fresh Cheese Platter

Bread rolls

Ready-made Spinach and Cheese Quiches are simple and delicious, and we love that they are delivered directly to your door and only require heating!

Beef Wellingtons are a Perfectly English Option. These ones can also be bought in advance and cooked on the day.

Your guests will love these tiny wrapped sausages, called Pigs in Blankets, in England.

It is also lovely to add some Ready-Made Smoked Salmon Rolls.

Create a beautiful fresh Cheese Platter with cheeses delivered fresh to your door. Choose a nice range of cheddars and soft cheeses.

Sweet Selections

Sponge Cake (Our Victorian Sponge Cake Recipe is here)

Layered Sponge Cake with Raspberry Filling

Scones with jam and cream – (Our Scone Recipes are here)

Custard tarts

Chocolate brownies

Tea cakes (Our Tea Loaf recipe is here)

Iced buns

Iced Danish Buns

Shortbread cookies

This pretty Ready-made Layered Sponge Cake with Raspberry Filling is a great option for a sweet dish at the tea party.

English High Tea Style Guide

Iced Danish Buns taste and smell delicious when served warm from the oven. These fabulous Danish buns can be heated from frozen making your day easier to cater.

Classic Afternoon Tea Selections

One of our absolute favorite Teas to serve at a British-style Afternoon tea is Harney & Sons Royal Palace Tea with lemon and grapefruit. This fabulous tea taste and smells divine with lemon and grapefruit notes.

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Pink or Purple Party Tea Set or why not both? We love the look of these classic tea sets with teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, and teacups and saucers.

The Matching Tea Pot is the perfect size for serving tea during a tea party.

And this tea set also comes in white. We love them all!

Equipment List for hosting an English High Tea Event

Per Place setting

For a very traditional afternoon tea, you might like to use the well-known Blue Willow Pattern Tea set.

These Classic Lemonade Glasses are also a favorite of ours.

These classic Sherry Glasses remind us of the small glass of sherry our grandmother would sip on special occasions. Which is what makes them perfect for a traditional British High Tea party.

We are big fans of using perfectly mismatched tea cups and saucers. This set makes that perfect mismatch easy to achieve. They have created a set of complimenting teacups in two patterns and four colors. You can mix and match the teacup and saucers and they will look so effortlessly sweet on your table.

We became very excited when we came across this Glass Bell Jar. We use it for serving small individual cakes or cupcakes to our guests. They always love them!

Checklist For the table

Cut your cake in style with a beautiful silver knife and cake slice set.

Use a pair of sandwich tongs to serve sandwiches and slices. We love these ornate silver sandwich tongs.

English high tea party cake stand

If you are using loose leaf tea, be sure to have some tea strainers on hand. We recommend these Elegant Stainless Steel Loose Leaf Tea Strainers from Solstice Tea Traders

Adding elegant serving options like this Glass Cake Stand with Dome make an English High Tea even more special. You can use this to serve a single cake, pie, or sandwiches.

We love to use vintage-style plates for high tea parties. They bring a fun, but traditional feel to the event. We especially love a mismatched set of plates like this Royal Albert Mixed Plate Set

Other optional extras

Mini British Flags in cupcakes are the perfect way to inject a very British feel into the tea party. These pretty little union jacks can be added to cakes, sandwiches, and tarts.

Add some Whimsical Tea Treats for your guests like these stacked teapot and teacup ornaments.

And perhaps a Butler to serve the tea?

Get this butler costume and convince someone to take the role.

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