A queen-worthy tea party may sound like a posh affair, but hosting an English tea party has to be neither difficult nor expensive. Check out our top tea party ideas for a fun and fancy event.
In this article, you will find:
- How to choose a theme for an English tea party
- When and how to send out party invitations
- How to set the table for formal English tea
- How to host a tea party outside
- Tea party decoration ideas
- How to set the mood with music
- How to prepare guest favours
- Tea party food ideas
- How to serve the perfect cup of tea
- Party games and ideas for breaking the ice
1. English Tea Party Ideas: Choosing a Theme
Are you thinking of Queen Elizabeth or Queen of Hearts? In either case, you will want to make sure that your dress code and decorations match well. If you want to go more royal than anything, encourage your guests to wear fancy dresses and fascinator hats – or ask them to dress up as their favourite Alice in Wonderland character.
Below you can find our favourite themes for hosting an afternoon tea party:
While the Downton Abbey show may be officially retired, you can’t overlook the traditional influence it had on modern-day tea party ideas.
- Go for fancy chinaware or mix-match white teacups.
- Plan to view your guests’ favourite episodes or search for some online videos that will provide an overview of the series and play them in the background while you enjoy the food and tea.
- Invite guests to participate in Downton Abbey-themed trivia games.
Alice in Wonderland
The classic children’s story of Alice in Wonderland is among the most popular themes for a tea party.
- Scatter playing cards, clocks, and keys all around the room. Instead of name cards, use common phrases from the book, such as “Off With Her Head” or “Drink Me” to bring back memories.
- You can even ask your guests to dress up as one of the characters or wear a fun hat.
- Ask your guests to bring their favourite items related to the story.
What is more British and still widely popular than the Doctor Who series?
- Use blue-based table settings and china to mimic the famous TARDIS and play space-aged music in the background.
- Print out some of the most famous expressions of the Doctor and scatter them around the table.
- Ask your guests to share stories about their favourite doctor or quiz them on Doctor Who trivia.
Invite your favourite mom-friends for a tea party celebration that their children help to set up. Even though this tea party idea may require some additional preparation, it is totally worth it.
- Ask the children to draw place settings with their mom’s name.
- Ask the children to help set up the table and serve food and teach them high tea etiquette and table manners along the way.
An afternoon tea party can be themed around any common interest that you share with your guests, such as music.
- Choose a musical influence (such as the Beatles) and plan your decorations around song choices or album covers.
- Make sure to include a pre-selected playlist on your phone to go through the hits from that time period throughout the night.
If you have a special interest in a particular culture, you can base your English tea party theme around it. Even if this culture isn’t the one that is typically associated with tea parties, there is no reason why you can’t incorporate it.
- For example, if you like Southern Scarlett O’Hara style, ask your guests to dress in vintage formal wear and bring parasols and elbow-length gloves.
- On the other hand, if you are in love with the New England style, you can plan your theme by using seashells as place settings and incorporating a navy-blue and white dress code to reflect the culture of the rocky coasts of Rhode-Island.
Potluck Tea Party Idea
You can turn any of the above tea party themes into a potluck-style event.
- Ask your guests to bring a sample of their favourite tea, whether it is in loose tea leaves or several tea bags. You will still need to prepare and serve the tea, but your guests will get a chance to try a variety of them.
- If your guests don’t have a favourite tea, they can bring a few finger sandwiches or desserts to share.
2. Sending Invitations to Your Tea Party
Once you finalize the theme, it is time to set the stage for your tea party with custom invitations. It is up to you to decide how formal you want the event to be. If it is a simple friend gathering, a standard Facebook event invite or a text message will do.
However, if you want to go all out, you can actually print out and mail formal invites. Make sure to send out invitations 2-4 weeks in advance. Specify the date, time, and location and ask your guests to notify you of any allergies or dietary restrictions when they send their RSVP.
3. Setting the Table for an English Tea Party
An elegant tea party is definitely one of those occasions where table setting really does matter. It’s time to take out your pretty china and fancy tableware.
- Extend the table and cover it with a nice tablecloth. Fabric stores sell a variety of cheap floral, spotted, and striped materials by length, which can work great for your tea party.
- Make sure that each place setting includes at least a teacup, a saucer, and a bread plate.
- Place the teapot in the centre of the table, or, if you are expecting many party guests, place two or three teapots throughout the table.
- Dress up the table with other cute accessories, such as lace doilies or flowers.
- Be creative with your place settings. For example, you can bake some name-place cookies and ice them with your guests’ names.
- If you don’t have a formal tea service, you can encourage your guests to bring their own unique cup and saucer to use at the party.
English Teaware & China
4. Hosting an English Tea Party Outside
If the weather allows, host your tea party on the patio, out in the garden, or on the lawn. It is an excellent way to enjoy the fresh air, and the picnic-like setting will make the tea even more fun.
Set up a table outside covered with a beautiful floral-patterned table cloth or even throw a blanket right on the lawn, so that you can enjoy your own English tea party.
5. Tea Party Decoration Ideas
Make sure that the decorations you choose reflect your overall tea party theme. Below you can find some quick and inexpensive English tea party decoration ideas.
- Candles. Set both short and tall candles all around the room with fancy candle holders. Keep in mind that scented candles could clash with your food choices, so go for unscented coloured candles instead.
- Flowers. You can save money by picking some wildflowers from your own backyard. You can also visit a local grocery store or a flower shop to purchase a few potted plants. Cut flowers placed in unused teapots make for great creative centrepieces.
- Pearls. Purchase long, decorative pearl strands in the colour of your theme and cut them into smaller pieces. Place these pearls around the countertops, tables, and window shelves.
Tea Party & Table Décor
6. Setting the Mood With Music
Make a playlist in advance to set the mood and complement your party theme.
Choose music that is upbeat but works well for the background – you don’t want to drown out the conversation. You can never go wrong with some classical music or jazz.
7. Tea Party Ideas: Preparing Guest Favours
Even though it is up to you whether you decide to send your guests off with a party favour in their pockets, this can be a fun way to give something that will help your friends remember the day. Beautiful tea party favours can be something as simple as handmade soap in a wrap that matches the theme or just a few tea bags that the guests can take home with them to enjoy later.
Including party favours will add more to your to-do list, but it can be a great way to tie in your party theme. You can even use some of your decorations as a favour. For example, if you have floral arrangements on the tables, let your guests take them home as they leave.
Guest Party Favour Ideas
8. Tea Party Food Ideas
Depending on the occasion, your afternoon tea menu can be as simple as tea accompanied by cream scones, or elaborate enough to include multiple sorts of tea, finger sandwiches, scones and other treats.
No English tea party idea is as important as the tea itself! The secret to preparing a queen-worthy cup of tea lies in a high-quality black tea blend and extra hot water. We recommend going for a blend that includes Assam and/or Ceylon varieties.
Whether bagged or loose, you can never go wrong with a traditional British brand like Yorkshire Gold, Earl Grey, Twinings, or PG Tips. If you choose to go with loose tea, you can either place it directly into the pot or use a special tea infuser to keep the pot free of sediments.
In addition, make sure to include at least one caffeine-free herbal tea or a decaf option, in case some guests are sensitive to caffeine.
Don’t Forget Milk and Condiments
Sugar, milk, honey, and lemon are optional ingredients that your guests may choose to add to their own tea. Depending on the types of tea served at your party, you might want to offer one or several of these additives.
Master the Fluffy Scone Art
Scones are among the most popular foods on any tea party menu. They can be savoury or sweet, plain or complex. From basic buttermilk scones to sweet cinnamon scones, you can find scone recipes for any style of a themed tea party.
For example, if you are planning a girl-exclusive English tea party, consider serving gentle raspberry scones, which are naturally pink and take the colour of mashed raspberries.
Make sure to complement your scones with proper spreads or scone toppings, such as clotted cream, Devonshire cream, or lemon curd.
Other Sweet Treats
In addition to sweet cones, common tea party foods include various types of cupcakes, sponge cakes, Madeleines, and trifles. Remember not to have too much overlap in the different types of sweets you serve. Aim to include a variety of flavours in your sweets menu, such as whipped cream, chocolate, vanilla, and seasonal fruits.
Offer Delicate Finger Sandwiches
Finger, or “tea”, sandwiches are commonly served at full tea, a heavier style of an English tea party. Traditional bite-sized tea sandwiches include:
- Smoked salmon sandwiches
- Egg salad sandwiches
- Cucumber sandwiches
- Ham finger sandwiches
- Roast beef sandwiches
- Chicken salad finger sandwiches
However, you can explore beyond these classic tea sandwiches with other recipes. Just make sure to keep the intensity of flavour in your finger sandwiches compatible with the level of flavour in your sweets and tea.
Apart from tea sandwiches, some English tea party menus include soups, savoury scones, quiches, or seasoned nuts, crackers, and cheese. If you are throwing a themed party, a careful selection of savouries can help to complement your theme.
If you are looking for kids’ tea party ideas, consider serving other beverages like juice, iced tea, or punch. For adult tea parties, you can add a tea cocktail or champagne.
Cake Stands & Serving Platters
9. Learning to Serve the Perfect Cup of Tea
Even though it is a good idea to serve more than one variety of tea at your English tea party, you don’t want to get your guests overwhelmed with too many options. Most of the time, three tea options are more than enough, – anything more than that would be difficult to pair with the food.
Brewing Perfect Hot Tea
To prepare royal hot tea, follow these steps:
- Fill your kettle halfway with water. Bring it to boil, then dump the water out. This will help to rinse any leftover tea from the last time the pot was used.
- Bring the kettle to boil again and transfer the water to your decorative teapot for serving.
- Different teas require different temperatures for brewing, so make sure to research what temperature your water should have before you add your tea bags or loose leaf tea. The amount of tea added to the water should be based on the amount of tea you will be serving.
- Serve the tea to your guests while it is still hot. Make sure to pour it through a strainer to avoid getting any stray leaves in the cup.
- Offer milk, sugar, and honey on the tea table so that your guests can customize their tea as they like.
- After all of the guests are served, place the teapot in the center of the table and cover it with a tea cozy to keep the tea warm.
- When most of the tea has been served, it is time to make a new pot.
Brewing Perfect Cold Tea
Many people choose cold tea over hot, so keep that in mind when preparing your tea party ideas, especially if you are hosting your party during warmer months. You can prepare cold tea ahead of time to take away some stress associated with hosting a British tea party.
- Take a clean large pitcher and add your tea. Usually, two tea bags are enough for every 3 cups of water.
- Add hot water and stir. You can add some sugar to sweeten the tea while the water is still hot. Let the water come to room temperature and place the pitcher in the fridge.
- Let the tea steep for several hours or even overnight.
- Just before serving, take out tea bags and pour the tea over ice.
Tea Essentials & Accessories
10. Tea Party Ideas for Breaking the Ice
If you are concerned that the conversation might not flow as freely as the tea, plan ahead and prepare a few icebreaker game tea party ideas.
For example, you could give each guest a sticky note with a name of a character on it and attach it to their hat or forehead. Then, they must go around and ask other guests “yes or no” questions until they guess who they are. Choose a theme for the characters, such as Downton Abbey or Alice in Wonderland, to narrow the field.
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