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.

An English High 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. At more elegant events, wine and sherry were also available.

An English High Tea has a mixture of cold and hot, sweet and savory finger foods.  Tea, coffee, and juices are served and often sparkling wine and/or cocktails as the afternoon progresses.

Harney & Sons Royal English Breakfast Tea

The Invitations:

An English High Tea really starts with the invitations. To set the scene well these should be more formal on heavy card 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.

Be sure to ask your guests to RSVPs at least one week prior to the event to allow you time to arrange the catering.

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

An English High Tea means elegance and refinement. This is not the place for over the top embellishments or decorations. A classic vintage style works best for this party. 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.

Classic White Tablecloth by NewBridge

Place settings

Place a handwritten name card at each place setting and a small menu card. Beside each place setting place a small side plate with a knife and linen napkin in silver or porcelain napkin ring. On the center of the place, setting stand your 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.

Serve the food on gorgeous old fashioned plates and cakes 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.

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

Beef Wellingtons

Sausage Rolls

Smoked salmon rolls

Tomato tart

Cold meat platter

Cheese Platter

Bread rolls

Sweet Selections

Sponge Cake (Our Victorian Sponge Cake Recipe is here)

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

Custard tarts

Chocolate brownies

Tea cakes (Our Tea Loaf recipe is here)

Iced buns

Shortbread cookies

Tea Selections

Classic Earl Grey Tea

Traditional English Breakfast Tea

Mango Ceylon Tea

Refreshing Peppermint Tea

 

 

Equipment List for hosting an English High Tea Event

Per Place setting

Classic Bone China teacups with matching saucers

Fine Bone China Side Plates

Crisp White Linen napkins

English Rose Napkin rings

Classic Lemonade Glasses

Champagne Glasses or Sherry Glasses

Dainty Silver Teaspoons

Silver Cake Forks

Silver butter knife

Handwritten Place cards

Menu Cards

For the table

Long white tablecloths

Classic glass lemonade jugs

Glass water jugs with ice and lemon slices or mint

Cake knife

Silver Cake slice

Silver Sandwich tongs

Silver Cream Spoon

Tea Strainer

Glass or Ceramic Cake Stands

Fine Bone China Sandwich plates

Classic Fine Bone China Teapots

Crystal Sugar bowls with silver sugar spoons

Fine Bone China or Cut Glass Milk Jugs

Dainty porcelain Jam Dishes

Glass or Ceramic Cream Bowl with a silver spoon

Vases with roses and other flowers in season

Other optional extras

Mini British Flags in cupcakes

Tea themed gifts for guests

Butler to serve the tea

Our Vintage Tea Party Style Guide is now available on Amazon


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More Vintage Tea Party Inspirations

Articles about tea time:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-history-and-etiquette_b_3751053

https://time.com/4640082/teatime-history/

https://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/best-afternoon-tea-london

https://www.thesavoylondon.com/experience/afternoon-tea-london/

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